Singapore — Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday (Jan 5), Dr Vivian Balakrishnan issued a clarification on the collection and use of TraceTogether app data after it became public knowledge from the previous day’s sitting that the data could be used for police investigations.
The Foreign Minister and Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative said: “Frankly, and I think members know me well, and I am always very frank. Frankly, I had not thought of the CPC (Criminal Procedure Code) when I spoke earlier.”
His comments were in reference to why he had in the past said that TraceTogether app data would only be used for Covid-19 contact tracing.
Dr Balakrishnan noted that under Section 20 of the CPC, the police have the power to order anyone to produce data for the purposes of a criminal investigation. He emphasised that TraceTogether data will be protected for all “normal use cases”, but that it is not exempt from the CPC.
He added that the police can only ask for access by requiring a person involved in or assisting in criminal investigations to produce his mobile phone or his TraceTogether token.
The clarification by Dr Balakrishnan came following a backlash from Singaporeans after it was announced on Monday (Jan 4) that the Singapore Police Force (SPF) can obtain TraceTogether data for criminal investigations.
There was controversy on social media right after that announcement, with people calling out the Government and others posting that they had deleted the app. Some others came up with solutions to circumvent the issue by having two mobile phones — one for daily use and another, a cheaper version, to be used for TraceTogether purposes.
On Monday, Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan had responded to a question from Mr Christopher de Souza (PAP, Holland-Bt Timah GRC), who had asked if TraceTogether data will be used for criminal investigations and what the legal provisions and safeguards are for using such data.
A privacy statement on the TraceTogether website had earlier said the data would only be used “for contact tracing purposes”.
The site was updated on Monday, which “clarified how the Criminal Procedure Code applies to all data under Singapore’s jurisdiction”.
Under the Public Sector (Governance) Act, public officers who recklessly or knowingly disclose the data without authorisation, or misuse the data, may be fined up to S$5,000 or jailed up to two years, or both. /TISG