“Where I said I say …”: Singapore will give access to COVID-19 data to its law enforcement agencies for criminal investigations

Contact tracing apps have always raised suspicions in the fear of using them as a new form of mass espionage. Its developers have always promised to protect the privacy of those who installed it, but now that promise has been broken in Singapore .

There, the Government has renounced its promise and confirmed that the country’s security agencies will be able to access the data registered in the TraceTogether contact tracing application if they could be necessary for criminal investigations. There the use of this tool is massive , and about 78% of the population uses it to control the pandemic.

Law enforcement agencies will be able to access TraceTogether data

Singapore had been a notable success story for contact tracing apps, and it even applied additional measures like tracker bracelets . As with other Asian countries, the percentage of the population that installed and uses the app is huge, and to date more than 4.2 million Singaporeans use TraceTogether – 78% of the population.

The figure contrasts with just 15% of the Spanish population , for example. Both here and in other countries with a low adoption rate, one of the reasons for not installing it has been the potential threat to user privacy.

The promise of those who develop these applications has been unanimous: location data is not collected – in the case of Android, that data is used by the operation of the Bluetooth service, but it is not collected – and that data is used specifically to control the pandemic. .

The promise was identical in Singapore, where the government’s message regarding TraceTogether was clear: that data ” will never be accessed unless the user is a positive case of contagion ,” and would still only be contacted by contact tracing personnel to inform the affected party of the next steps.

However, Singapore’s Interior Minister Desmond Tan explained that law enforcement will be able to access such data if it is relevant to criminal investigations . The comment was the result of a question in a recent appearance in parliament.

Tan explained that the government would be the custodian of this contact tracing data and strict measures would be established to protect this data, which would only be accessed for “authorized purposes” , being stored on a “secure data platform.” He also highlighted the penalty imposed on those who access the data without authorization or use them illegally.

The TraceTogether privacy terms were modified to reflect this new reality, stating that “authorized police officers may invoke the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) to require users to upload their TraceTogether data for criminal investigations.”