Following the Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) statement on Jan 10 about ministers backtracking on TraceTogether promises, PSP Assistant Secretary-General Francis Yuen explained the party’s position on the matter.
Mr Yuen contested in Chua Chu Kang GRC during the 2020 elections, along with former Institute of Policy Studies research fellow Dr Tan Meng Wah, law undergraduate Choo Shaun Ming and fire safety engineer Abdul Rahman Mohamad.
A former air force lieutenant-colonel, his career has been in the field of aerospace engineering, locally and in China. He spent 14 years in Beijing and Shanghai growing their aerospace industries as part of multinational corporations.
A Singapore Armed Forces scholar, he has worked with ministers Teo Chee Hean, George Yeo, Lim Hng Kiang and Lim Swee Say in his 20 years as part of air force leadership.
In speaking to Mr Yuen on the recent TraceTogether issue, he agreed that it is indeed a very important part of fighting the pandemic.
“Making sure TraceTogether is transparent, would mean that the people have the confidence and trust to use it. The moment that people do not have faith or trust in the system, and when they know that the data collected could be used for purposes other than tracing, then you would end up with people not fully rallying behind it”, he added.
Moving forward, Mr Yuen added that “We must now rebuild the confidence and faith in people to use TT”.
Mr Yuen’s comments on the recent TraceTogether developments, including the huge backlash from Singaporeans after Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan said in Parliament on Jan 4 that the police could obtain TraceTogether data for criminal investigations.
Before that, a privacy statement on the TraceTogether website had said the data would only be used “for contact tracing purposes”. The site was updated on Jan 4 to clarify that the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) applies to all data under Singapore’s jurisdiction.
When asked if Singaporeans should accept Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan’s reasoning when he said on Jan 5, also in Parliament, that he had not thought of the CPC earlier and that he had “overlooked” it, Mr Yuen said this was “Quite disappointing”.
“It may be one minister having overlooked the fact that you have this implication, but certainly there are other members in the Cabinet who could have pointed this out”, he added.
Mr Yuen pushed for assurances by the Government on how the data will be used.
He continued: “Look, despite the rules of the CPC, we are not going to use the data for anything else other than contact tracing.”
The Government will introduce legislation setting out seven categories of serious offences for which TraceTogether data can be used for police investigations, said the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) on Friday (Jan 8).
These include offences related to terrorism, drug trafficking, murder, kidnapping and serious sexual offences such as rape.
This change came after privacy concerns over the national contact tracing tool for COVID-19 were raised after it emerged in Parliament on Monday that under Section 20 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the police have the power to order anyone to produce any data – including TraceTogether data – for the purposes of a criminal investigation. /TISG
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