Singapore—Some Singaporeans have questioned the new TraceTogether Token recently introduced by the Government. The Bluetooth device is designed to function like the TraceTogether app but not everyone has a cellular phone that can effectively supply data that is needed for contact tracing, said Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan when he spoke at the multi-ministry task force (MTF) press conference on Monday (June 8), hence the need for a standalone token that people can carry with them in their bags or wear around their necks on a lanyard.
I keep thinking about the TraceTogether dongle and whilst the data protection is really robust, it also requires us to…
Dr Balakrishnan added, “It is not a tracking device. It is not an electronic tag, as some of the Internet commentaries have fretted about.”
One netizen named Lim Jialiang said on Facebook on June 10 that while the device’s “data protection is really robust,” it “also requires us to hope that the government will use the data in good faith,” which gives rise to more problematic issues.
Mr Lim wrote, “Can I trust that the police, in good faith, will not take my dongle away at that point?
Can I trust that MOH, in good faith, will not surrender the decryption code that will allow them to have a snapshot of the people that said activist has met over the past 25 days?
Can I trust that MHA, in good faith, will not introduce this as part of their tools for surveillance?
Can I hope that Minlaw, in good faith, will not retroactively create broad-reaching legislation that will legitimate these actions?
The unfortunate answer is no.”
Mr Lim went on to say that he had had a conversation with a civil servant, who had questioned why people were expressing dissatisfaction with the contact tracing device.
“They have accepted so much incursions into their public and private lives by the State already, why now? Rather than see this as irrational, why not see this as the straw that broke the camel’s back?”
For him, the hue and cry over the token “has shown very clearly that Singaporeans are not happy to be surveilled (sic) more” and that “the continued incursions into public trust has proved that just when the State needed the buy-in of its citizens the most, it cannot receive it.”
Mr Lim compared this to the situation in other places such as South Korea and Taiwan, which have “even more invasive surveillance methods,” but however in their “democratically elected and governed polity there are checks and balances.”
Furthermore, the decision to use “cellular data to triangulate suspected patients” was only arrived at in South Korea “after a long and arduous debate in parliament” after the country suffered from the MERS outbreak.
To end his post, Mr Lim wrote, “Even today in South Korea some are debating whether the details of some of their contact tracing is excessive and an invasion of privacy. This is exactly why the PAP should learn restraint and not always spend political capital. You never know when you need it.” —/TISG
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