Singapore has confirmed that its police will be able to access the country's COVID-19 contact tracking data to assist in their criminal investigations. To date, more than 4,2 million people or 78% of the local population have installed the TraceTogether contact tracking application, which has one of the highest penetration rates in the world.
That number is double the rate three months ago in September, when TraceTogether recorded 2,4 million downloads, or about 40% of the population. A recent increase was probably fueled by its announcement government that the use of the application will become mandatory for entry into public places from the beginning of 2021.
In an effort to alleviate privacy concerns, the Singapore Government has repeatedly stated that data on COVID-19 "will never be accessible unless the user test positive for the virus ". Personal data, such as unique identification number and cell phone number, will be replaced by a random permanent ID and stored in a secure one server.
Smart Nation Undersecretary of State and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan also insisted that the "TraceTogether token" was not a surveillance device, as it did not contain chips GPS and could not connect to Internet.
He also noted that all TraceTogether data will be encrypted and will stored for up to 25 days, after which they will be automatically deleted, adding that the information will be "transferred" to the Ministry of Health only when a person is positive for the COVID-19 virus, Balakrishnan said.
Moreover, "only a very limited, limited group of detectors" would have access to data, said the minister.
However, the Singapore government has now confirmed that local law enforcement authorities will be able to access the data for criminal investigations. According to the Code Criminal Procedure, the Singapore Police Force can take any data and that includes TraceTogether data, according to Home Secretary Desmond Tan.
He added that public officials who knowingly disclose data without authorization or misuse the data could be fined up to $ 5.000 or imprisonment up to two years or both.
Asked if the police use of the data violated the commitment confidentiality of TraceTogether, Tan said: “We do not rule out the use of TraceTogether data in cases where safety of citizens is affected or has affected, and this applies to all other data. "
He noted that "authorized police officers" may rely on the Code of Criminal Procedure to access TraceTogether data for such purposes, as well as for criminal investigation, but that in any other case, this data will only be used to identify contact contacts and to fight spread of COVID-19.