The temptation was undoubtedly very strong. Singapore officials lied to their citizens. The contact tracing system was to be used for the fight against the virus. However, this computer platform can also be used by the police. On several occasions human rights organizations have warned to monitor the risks of abuses associated with these digital systems. Singapore has just demonstrated it.
This revelation is not the result of any external investigation or investigation by technology experts. It was the Minister of the Interior himself who admitted it to Parliament on Monday. Responding to an MP’s question, he asked the police about the possible use of the trajectory tracking system, Desmond Tan stated that “the Singapore Police Force is authorized to obtain all data, including for criminal investigations,” Completely “. And yet, officials always said that the data in this system was only being used for the fight against viruses.
The Foreign Minister tried to reassure on Tuesday. Vivian Balakrishnan claimed that Trastel’s data for his information was used only once by the police in connection with the investigation into the murder. And “Once the epidemic is over and there is no greater need for contact tracing, we will gladly close the tritext report.” In theory, the data is encrypted and destroyed after twenty-five days.
But, for now, the controversy is lively. Phil Robertson, Asia’s director of the NGO Human Rights Watch, told AFP that this information shows how the government secretly exploited it to strengthen its surveillance and control the population.
It is not certain that this controversy will reduce the use of treste. Today, 78% of Singapore’s 5.7 million residents use the system, a world record. For comparison, the rate in Switzerland for the SwissCovid app is around 20% – it should be noted that its use is anonymous and its data is unusable by the police.
The reason Singapore has achieved such a high rate is the discipline of many citizens. But this is mainly because Singapore has decided in early 2021 to allow access to public places (administration, shopping centers, places of worship, etc.), only for those using a contact tracing system. It can either be a TraceT fully smartphone app or small physical token with a Bluetooth chip – these tokens have been distributed to a population of over 1.75 million. The two systems, which identify their users, locate other phones or tokens within two meters for thirty minutes.
On 20 October, when the rate of use of the tracing system was “only” 45%, officials set an objective to reach 70% by the end of 2020 to move all three to the phase of deconfiguration. For now, these measures bear fruit. There are only 58,000 virus infections in Singapore since the onset of the epidemic and 29 deaths.
Note that in recent months the Israeli government has repeatedly wanted to allow police and secret services to access national system data to trap national contacts. But justice was opposed.