COVID-19 contact tracing applications have been used by nations around the world to help individuals know if they have been exposed to another person with the novel coronavirus, but there could soon be a new purpose for these apps.
According to reports from Reuters, the Singaporean government will use the information gathered by its ‘TraceTogether’ COVID-19 contact tracing app to assist in criminal investigations. The application, which is also available as a physical device, has been widely adopted in Singapore, with 80% of the population choosing to use the app, which is amongst the highest in the world.
With such a large adoption rate, authorities have access to a wide variety of data on users and their whereabouts, which they can use to track down a suspected criminal or assist them in a criminal investigation.
“The Singapore Police Force is empowered … to obtain any data, including TraceTogether data, for criminal investigations,” said Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan, as reported by Reuters.
The privacy statement on the TraceTogether site also confirmed that under the Criminal Procedure Code, “The Singapore Police Force is empowered under the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) to obtain any data, including TraceTogether data, for criminal investigations.”
As you would imagine, the idea of using the contact tracing app to keep tabs on citizen’s whereabouts has raised privacy concerns. This sparked controversy on social media, with some users calling out the government for its use of the app, and others posting images of them deleting the application altogether.
today’s mood: pic.twitter.com/SmjzIAVe1x
— prEEtipls (@plspreeti) January 4, 2021
“This is the worst case scenario that privacy advocates have warned about since the start of the pandemic,” Programme Director Lucie Krahulcova told the BBC. “Such an approach will erode public trust in future health responses and therefore impede their efficacy.”
It will be interesting to see if other countries around the world follow in Singapore’s footsteps and use their own contact tracing apps to track information on their citizens.