For Immediate Release
At the party launch in August 2019, we emphasized the need to have a government that is transparent, independent and accountable to its people. These are the cornerstones of our party’s political ethos.
We are deeply troubled by what is happening in our nation today – the PAP is backtracking on its words and since Monday 4th of January the Singapore Police Force is empowered under the CPC to obtain any data, including TraceTogether data for criminal investigations.
Such a move is not aligned to our idea of dealing with the current healthcare crises. The government asked us to adopt TraceTogether apps and tokens to deal with the pandemic, but today, it allows this very data for investigations under Criminal Procedure Code.
There are deeper implications to their actions. Backtracking is not good politics, and it erodes the confidence and social compact of our citizens in our political institutions. There is much disquiet on how the government is handling sensitive information and we are concerned that the TraceTogether apps unnecessarily expose users’ locations and infringes on their privacy.
We are also concerned that the government’s overreaching powers will discourage people from using the TraceTogether app or token altogether and will set us back in our efforts to fight the spread of COVID19. There are new strains of the virus and as long as COVID19 or the new variants are around, the fight to contain the virus is not over yet.
We need to be singular in purpose when it comes to contact tracing and in our fight against this pandemic. We fear that the government’s latest move may result in a loss of confidence in our systems.
The Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) issued a press statement on Jan. 8 acknowledging its “error in not stating that data from TraceTogether is not exempt from the Criminal Procedure Code.” SNDGO listed seven categories of serious offences in their list after the minister was queried in Parliament earlier in the week.
Firstly, this raises the question of fitness of purpose of the TT systems for the use of tracing nefarious activities. It is conceivable that a terror suspect could very well forge a different set of meta data (i.e Name and NRIC) or the user might even carry several handsets to throw the investigators off the scent.
Secondly, the system was designed to store data for only 25 days – in the case of tracing terror suspects, would the government be storing the data for a longer period because the current period of 25 days may not be sufficient?
Thirdly, does the government have any intention of actively monitoring data for those who are in the watchlist of the Internal Security Department? If so, what are the parameters or modalities of such a surveillance?
We like to reiterate that extending police powers to TT data is not aligned to the original spirit of what the dataset was intended for. The move shared by minster Dr Vivian Balakrishnan to establish guidelines for the use of these data under CPC will not ease the mind of people nor help to rebuild trust.
Covid tracing data must solely and strictly be used for fighting the pandemic and nothing else. Hence the Progress Singapore Party calls for the government to protect the privacy, the integrity of our contact tracing systems and restore public confidence.
Dr Tan Cheng Bock
Progress Singapore Party
Credit: Above image of TraceTogether Token and TraceTogether Mobile from Straits Times.
The full statement above can be downloaded here.