When Singapore faced a spike in number of Covid19 cases, the PAP government tried to encourage residents to download a locally-developed app called TraceTogether for contact tracing purposes. However this project failed to take off as many netizens complained about problems with the app including how it drained their phone battery life while others were concerned about their personal privacy.
In a renewed attempt to implement this failed project, the government recently announced that Singaporeans will be issued with a wearable contact-tracing device. Minister of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Vivian Balakrishnan tried to reassure that the device only uses Bluetooth technology to exchange proximity information between devices. He claims there is no GPS in the token and it will not track users' locations.
Yet again this proposed token faced mounting concerns about privacy and surveillance. Among those voices was journalist Kirsten Han who came up with various questions about the token. She wrote many questions in her 9 June Facebook post:
1. There are other methods besides GPS to track people.
2. TraceTogether is meant for contact tracing, and this means users are being tracked. Why is there a need for this TraceTogether token when there other measures like SafeEntry?
3. The TraceTogether app was ineffective because not enough people have downloaded it, but PAP failed to disclose how useful it has been so far.
4. There is no known law to prevent other authorities, like the police, from confiscating the token. It is also unknown if there are laws preventing the police from asking the encrypted data from the Ministry of Health (MOH).
5. There may not be any laws to prevent the government from misusing tokens by planting them in specific locations to ping TraceTogether tokens and track persons who have been in that place.
6. There are no reassurances about an oversight mechanism that will independently check the PAP's claims about the storage and deletion of TraceTogether's data.
Based on responses from netizens, it is doubtful that this TraceTogether token will be as welcomed or as effective as the app.