Singapore intends to pass law ensuring TraceTogether data used only for serious crimes

Staff Writer, Singapore
·Editorial Team
·2 min read
TraceTogether tokens in Singapore, part of a programme to control the spread of COVID-19. (PHOTO:Edgar Su/REUTERS)
TraceTogether tokens in Singapore, part of a programme to control the spread of COVID-19. (PHOTO:Edgar Su/REUTERS)

SINGAPORE – The government will introduce a bill to pass legislation formalising its assurances that the use of TraceTogether data in criminal investigations would be restricted to serious offences.

In a news release on Friday (8 January) evening, the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDO) said that “the legislation will specify that personal data collected through digital contact tracing solutions, which comprise the TraceTogether Programme and the SafeEntry Programme, can only be used for the specific purpose of contact tracing, except where there is a clear and pressing need to use that data for criminal investigation of serious offences”.

“We acknowledge our error in not stating that data from TraceTogether is not exempt from the Criminal Procedure Code,” the SNDO said.

In a parliamentary session on Tuesday, Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan had said that he had not considered the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) when he earlier spoke about TraceTogether’s data privacy safeguards. During a Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) press conference in June last year, Dr Balakrishnan emphasised that the TraceTogether app and token are not meant to be used to detect offences and breaches of rules, but rather for effective contact tracing.

In the same session on Tuesday, Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam asserted – in reply to questions by Workers’ Party chief and Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh – that the police use of TraceTogether data is “pretty much restricted to very serious offences”.

Seven categories of serious offences

There will be seven categories of serious offences for which the collected data can be used for police investigations, inquiries or court proceedings. These are:

Categories of serious offences for which police can use TraceTogether data in investigations, inquiries and court proceedings. (TABLE: Smart Nation and Digital Government Office)
Categories of serious offences for which police can use TraceTogether data in investigations, inquiries and court proceedings. (TABLE: Smart Nation and Digital Government Office)

The SNDO, part of the Prime Minister’s Office, said that the data cannot be used in the investigations, inquiries or court proceedings of any other offence besides the seven categories. “The legislation will be introduced in the next Parliament sitting in February on a Certificate of Urgency.”

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