Sparking concerns of violations of privacy, the Singapore government confirmed that contact-tracing data which Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation initiative, had said would be used only in contact tracing for COVID-19 mitigation purposes, had been used in criminal investigations.
The police will restrict the use of data collected by Singapore's national contact tracing programme TraceTogether to "very serious offences", said Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam yesterday.
Such data has been used once in a murder investigation, Balakrishnan revealed to the House, addressing concerns about TraceTogether, a day after it emerged in Parliament that the police are empowered to access this data under the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).
"The app or token only keeps a temporary record of who you have come into close contact with for a prolonged basis. Neither the app nor the token tracks a user’s location," Balakrishnan stated in Parliament, adding that he had forgotten that the CPC applied to contact tracing data.
"Frankly, I had not thought of the CPC when I spoke (earlier). The application of the CPC is not unique to TraceTogether data," he said.
Using Singapore's contract-tracing app TraceTogether is mandatory to enter certain gathering places such as shopping malls.
TraceTogether's privacy statement originally read, "Data will only be used for COVID-19 contact tracing," but it was updated this week to add, "Authorised Police officers may invoke Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) powers to request users to upload their TraceTogether data for criminal investigations. The Singapore Police Force is empowered under the CPC to obtain any data, including TraceTogether data, for criminal investigations."
Dr Balakrishnan also said that the Singapore Government will "most happily and cheerfully" stand down the programme once the Covid-19 pandemic is over and when TraceTogether is no longer needed.