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Is the data in Trace Together private?

Minister Balakskrishnan (VB), who is in charge of the Smart Nation initiative, said a few months ago that the data collected under Trace Together (TT) app is not stored in the government servers and that kept privately in the user’s mobile phone.

Minister of State of Home Affairs Desmond Tan (DT) said in Parliament that the government is empowered, under the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), to access the data on the mobile phone.

This cause an uproar. The citizens said that they have been misled by the government on the privacy of the data. Some people said that they will stop using the Trace Together app.

This caused minister VB to have “sleepless nights”. He realized that had “misspoke” about the privacy of the data in the TT app.

Here is my perspective about the whole issue.

I think it can be described as “making a mountain out of a molehill”. It is exaggerating a small problem and making it appear to be a big problem.

Under the CPC, the police is empowered to confiscate the personal computer of the suspect. The personal data that is stored in the computer is more sensitive and richer than the data in the Trace Together app.

If there is privacy concern about police investigation, it should be targeted at the confiscation of the computer and documents that are being accessed, rather than the TT data.

The extension of the power of the police to the TT data is quite a small issue.

What can the police see when they access the TT data? They can know who are the people that were in close contact with the suspect during the past 14 days. This data excludes the physical location of the data that was captured.

The possibility of the data being useful for the police investigation was so low that it was not worth considering. Why should it cause one minister to have sleepless nights and another minister to declare that he has the power to access the data?

I find this situation to be quite ridiculous.

I am concerned that it reflects poorly on the quality of the thinking and logic of the two ministers. Is this the quality of our ministers?

 

Tan Kin Lian

 

 

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13 Responses to “Is the data in Trace Together private?”

  • While I agree with Mr. Tan on the trivial aspect of how all in Sinkieland is already subjected to police’s enormous powers, I believe he has missed the main point altogether.

    The main issue that most probably have with the app implementation is that the gahment should have been upfront with the “police can use the data” thingy and not try to hoodwink and hide it. Had Vivian disclosed that and not come up with the BS about the data being “private”, most I believe would have accepted it.

    What do you think?

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  • PAP CLOSE DOWN:

    When you put down your particulars on a lucky draw form or applying for something, do you notice this clause? “By signing up or filling up this form, you authorise us to disclose your particulars to whom we see fit.”

    You want privacy? Just meet with friends and talk, even if movements can be traced. Don’t put on computer.

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  • Harder Truths:

    TRE Techie:
    Had Vivian disclosed that and not come up with the BS about the data being “private”, most I believe would have accepted it.

    The real point is the TraceTogether was always meant to be a location tracker and possibly something that is looking at all your other data as well, to circumvent your privacy.

    In short, anyone using this on their smartphone has practically downloaded the regime’s malware and spying tools, which can be activated anytime anywhere.

    The regime has been thinking of finding a ay to do this, and CoVID has given them a perfect opportunity. Sooner or later everyone will b forced to use this in daily life, so it is impossible not to use it.

    Happy 1984 to all!

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  • Nathan Chen:

    The safe entry requirement and TraceTogether used together will reveal your location.In the event of a big fight in a shopping mall, you will be invited to lim kopi as a witness even if you are just passing by. Who needs such unwelcomed aggravation when you are coorperating with the PAP to fight the covid-19.

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  • No imagination Tan:

    “What can the police see when they access the TT data? They can know who are the people that were in close contact with the suspect during the past 14 days. This data excludes the physical location of the data that was captured.”

    Mr Tan, so the police won’t know the location. So the police can’t do anything, right?

    Wrong. That will be enough reason for the police to interrogate you, without coffee or food, for hours.

    Remember Parti case? The police don’t need any physical evidence to issue an arrest warrant within a day. Someone files a complaint can already.

    With TT evidence that you were with a suspect for one hour? That will be more than enough evidence to arrest you.

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  • denominator power base:

    //The extension of the power of the police to the TT data is quite a small issue.//

    aiyoh. slippery slope lar ??? this is bit by bit (many more steps become one big slap lor ??) of your personal boundary being pushed and once you adapt and conditioned to it, another small step is taken hor ???

    once the base (denominator power base) gets slowly bigger, the numerator (one small step at a time) becomes smaller and smaller lor ????

    //What can the police see when they access the TT data? They can know who are the people that were in close contact with the suspect during the past 14 days. This data excludes the physical location of the data that was captured.//

    who is worried or so concerned if it it is done in good faith and really to investigate real crime / criminals (REAL CRIME lar) ? any bell ringing for potential one-man-smiley-face case ??

    people more concerned on potential ‘abuse’ (selective against disagreeable parties ???) by anyone on the use (demand to hold on to the token) and the authorities can just demand to look into it by saying investigate this and that (can anyone being asked then object to it and then face the possibility of an added charge of not cooperating with the law ????) ???

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  • @Harder Truths

    As someone who is learning (for fun and past time) on how to write an app, that would indeed be a concern as it is so easy to mine data of the phone once it is installed and has all the right permission.

    Unless dissected, how can one be sure that it is:

    1. Not mining information contained on the phone?
    2. That it is not connecting to the internet and sending these data to a hidden server?
    3. Can user tweak the app’s permission and not allow it to connect to the Internet, data or WIFI regardless and it will still function? I don’t think so thou, considering that it possibly uses GPS.
    4. If it uses only Bluetooth technology, then it is also very taxing on the battery.

    Mind you, mining data means it can collect everything single bit of data, as long as it is stored on the phone.

    I think these are the more important aspect the users should be worried about and not what the police can do with it.

    What do you think?

    P/S: Maybe I should download the app and get an expert at Tencent whom I know to take a look at what it does?

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  • Tremendous:

    Unless the chiefs got sleepless nights because there are more data inside that token than they declared, but cannot tell the villagers.

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  • Si Mi Lan:

    Si Mi Lan ?
    Amateurs here acting like veterans but no 1st hand experience.

    Even w/o token,

    All of u carry mobile phone, still u will be tracked. Power off also can track. Unless remove battery and dump your phone.

    I once left my mobile inside public toilet and some lucky guy pick it up. I try calling but no longer can get through. Probably hard reset. So i report police and since i still have the original box plus receipt, i furnished the model number, serial number and even imei number. I ask the police can help to track , the answer i got was dont waste time , buy a new phone. I tried 2 more police station at different locations ( one was AMK ) , same answer. Unless u are ministers or vip or vvip, forget it. My colleagues and friends same experience.

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  • Soccerbetting2:

    Reported on the TISG :Quote -”..
    Netizen vents frustration against TraceTogether in profanity-filled post
    The netizen remarked that the police should look into the matter “instead of using private citizen data as your crutch”….

    AUTHOR

    Obbana Rajah
    DATE

    January 8, 2021…

    A Reddit-user had some harsh words to say after it was revealed that the police had access to TraceTogether data under the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) in spite of the Government’s earlier assurances that the data was used solely for contact-tracing purposes to combat coronavirus transmission.

    Reddit user blackreplica commented on Tuesday (Jan 5), on a TODAY Online article that was shared.

    In their comment, they asked: “You breached our trust once (more like hundreds of times before but who’s counting) and expect us to TRUST YOU AGAIN that you will not misuse the data to meet police needs?”

    The netizen continued saying that if there were investigations, the police should look into the matter “instead of using private citizen data as your crutch. We have solved dozens of murder investigations before the internet even existed”.

    “Shame on you, and shame on the PAP for so happily taking our right to privacy as a matter of convenience”, he said.

    Other netizens who commented on the post had mixed reactions, but many did feel that it was an issue that broke the trust of many Singaporeans.

    Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday (Jan 5), Dr Vivian Balakrishnan issued a clarification on the collection and use of TraceTogether app data after it became public knowledge from the previous day’s sitting that the data could be used for police investigations.

    Dr Balakrishnan noted that under Section 20 of the CPC, the police have the power to order anyone to produce data for the purposes of a criminal investigation. He emphasised that TraceTogether data will be protected for all “normal use cases”, but that it is not exempt from the CPC.

    He added that the police can only ask for access by requiring a person involved in or assisting in criminal investigations to produce his mobile phone or his TraceTogether token.

    The clarification by Dr Balakrishnan came following a backlash from Singaporeans after it was announced on Monday (Jan 4) that the Singapore Police Force (SPF) can obtain TraceTogether data for criminal investigations. /TISG”Unquote .

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  • NotMyProblem:

    Well citizen; the next time when police knock on your door don’t be surprised. According to a criminal’s Trace Together record you were in contact with the criminal. You will be asked to go for coffee session in a police station to explain.

    So people, in order to avoid this trouble, switch off your phone’s bluetooth. Just scan the QR code will do!!

    The PAP government can say anything, believe it at your peril!!

    Remember our CPF withdrawal age was at 55 years old, now what happens? Someone even said your CPF does not belong to you!

    Remember PAP said the value of your HDB will never be depreciated, but now you were told your HDB value will be zero nearing to 99 years!!

    Remember road pricing was to control vehicles entering CBD, now you have to pay to go home too!!

    Remember when PAP said increase GST was to help the poor, but you still see the elderly poor “doing exercise” pushing trolley of cardboards.

    Continues to believe this PAP government!!!!

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  • Harder Truths:

    TRE Techie: I think these are the more important aspect the users should be worried about and not what the police can do with it.

    What do you think?

    I have a rule and it has been confirmed many times.
    Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Never trust the regime with anything. At this point in time they are still evolving the system. No one knows. If anyone thinks there is a democracy or privacy they are sorely mistaken. When the Social Credit Scheme comes into effect and ties to your TraceTogether then no one will be able to say or do anything, anytime, anywhere.

    There will come a time in the very near future (if not already ) when the regime WILL perfect backdoors to your mobile and by extension to every system you have. Besides TraceTogether there is another app from Singpass. How do we know what any app does? Remember 5G is not far away – that is a whole new problem for privacy altogether.

    There is no hope for this stupid island. I just want to see how far this will go while I am still around.

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  • Educate sunkens y Democracy:

    Well,is any “private” land in sg really private?

    Hahaha. Sinkies.

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