Singapore TraceTogether COVID-19 contact tracing

Occurred: January 2021

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TraceTogether is a system developed and operated by the Singapore government to identify people who have come into contact with others who have tested positive for COVID-19.

The system was launched in March 2020 as a mobile app. The app was later supplemented by a physical token for elderly people and children who may not own a smartphone or prefer not to use the app.

TraceTogether was widely adopted by Singaporeans, reaching a 92% adoption rate in May 2021. It has since been made mandatory for all Singaporeans.

Reaction

According to its privacy policy, TraceTogether data could only be used for contact tracing. However, in January 2021 a government minister revealed in Parliament that the police could access this data for criminal investigations under the Criminal Procedure Code, something that was confirmed the following day when a government minister confirmed contact data had been accessed by the police during a murder investigation.

Reaction was heated, with the government accused of privacy abuse and hypocrisy, leading some Singoreans to delete the app. The Singapore government subsequently introduced a bill restricting police access to investigate for seven categories of offences.

Transparency

The Singapore authorities were seen only to have admitted that the police had access to TraceTogether data in response to parliamentary questioning, resulting in questions regarding government trust and credibility.

Operator: Government of Singapore

Developer: Government of Singapore

Country: Singapore

Sector: Govt - health; Govt - police

Purpose: Identify contacts
Technology: Application; Bluetooth

Issue: Privacy; Surveillance; Dual/multi-use
Transparency: Governance; Marketing

System

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