Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Singapore admits data collected for contact-tracing accessible by police



Singapore admits data collected for contact-tracing accessible by police

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
People wearing face masks walk along a street in Chinatown, Singapore on Tuesday. AFP

Singapore admits data collected for contact-tracing accessible by police

Singapore has admitted data collected for contact-tracing can be accessed by police despite earlier assurances it would only be used to fight the coronavirus, sparking privacy concerns on January 5 about the scheme.

The city-state has a programme called “TraceTogether” for tracking close contacts of Covid-19 patients, that works via both a phone app and a dongle.

Take-up was initially slow due to privacy worries but rose to almost 80 per cent of residents after government assurances and a decision to make its use mandatory for accessing some public places like malls.

However, a senior official admitted in parliament that police could “obtain any data” – including information gathered through the contact-tracing programme – in the course of a criminal investigation.

Foreign minister Vivian Balakrishan said later that, to his knowledge, police had so far only accessed contact-tracing data on one occasion, during a murder probe.

Human Rights Watch accused the government, which is regularly criticised for curtailing civil liberties, of “undermining the right to privacy”.

The group’s Asia deputy director Phil Robertson said the admission “exposes how the government has been covertly exploiting the pandemic to deepen its surveillance and control over the population”.

Singaporean freelance journalist and activist Kirsten Han said she was disappointed but not surprised.

Han said: “Looking at the government’s record, I felt that it would be quite predictable that if they can do it, they will.

“It’s unfair and shows how little protection we have for our privacy against the government.”

Speaking in parliament on January 5, Balakrishan said the government was just being open when it made the admission.

He said: “We want to be completely above board and transparent.”

But there was much anger online, with some Singaporeans saying they felt betrayed. The city-state has only suffered a mild outbreak, with about 58,000 cases and 29 deaths.

Many countries have rolled out contact-tracing programmes that work via a smartphone app, but take-up has been low in some due to privacy concerns.

MOST VIEWED

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases

  • Cambodia to make auto-rickshaws

    Locally-assembled electric auto-rickshaws could hit the Cambodian market as soon as early in May after the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) gave the greenlight to an investment project at the weekend. According to a CDC press release, it will issue a final registration