Access to Trace Together data for a serious crime investigation

The minister of state for home affairs Desmond Tan gave an answer to a question raised in Parliament about the Trace Together data that is stored for contact tracing.

He said that the Police is empowered under the Criminal Procedure Code to access the data for the purpose of a crime investigation.

This caused an uproar as the minister in charge of Smart Nation Vivian Balakrishnan had promised several months ago that the data would only be used by the ministry of health for contact tracing.

Many people considered the statement from DT to be a breach of promise by the government. VB explained that he was not aware about the CPC and he would now get the government to pass a new law to stop the police from accessing the TT data.

I find this response from both ministers to be quite ridiculous.

The two minister should have responded differently.

Minister DT should have explained that the Safe Entry protocol, which has been in place for nearly a year, already required the people to record the entry several times each day into many places. The data is recorded in the government servers and contain the name, NRIC, location and time of entry.

The police could access the data in the government server and the individual concerned would not be aware about the access.

In contrast, the Trace Together app/token record only the token ID of the contact person and the time in the device carried by the owner. The data is not recorded in the government servers. The location is not recorded.

The TT data is only uploaded into the server when a person is found to be infected by the covid virus. The upload is done with his knowledge. The data will allow the ministry of health to identify the people (using the token ID) who have been in close contact with the infected person during the past 14 days.

The CPC allows the police to confiscate mobile phone, computer and documents of a person who is suspected to be involved in a crime. The purpose is to gather evidence of the crime.

Although the TT data is included in the items that could be confiscated, it is unlikely to be of any use for the investigation, compared to the other sources.

Indeed, the ministers could have asked the Police Department to declare that they will not use the data under Trace Together. (Note – there is no need to pass a law for this purpose).

I am disappointed with the replies given by the two ministers and the step that is being taken to pass a new law. There is a better way to deal with this issue.


Tan Kin Lian




6 Responses to “Access to Trace Together data for a serious crime investigation”

  • xoxo:

    THEY oredy schemed to make use of TT to *spy* on sgs like oppo sgs or social activists/ vociferous netizens/critics.

    COVID just hasten it?

    Covid is being made use of as an excuse.

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  • Tremendous:

    It’s because many west coastal villagers voted this chief in. These villagers have to fix the problem for the village, and stop hiding in their enclaves as like idiots.

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  • Not Just Privacy:

    …….But for others like Shanmugam and Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean, who was once in charge of the Home Affairs Ministry and has an important role as Co-ordinating Minister for National Security, missing the error is an uncharacteristic lapse. To make matters worse, Teo repeated Balakrishnan’s promise in a written answer to a Parliamentary question in July.

    ……This kind of lapse is not something one associates with a government known for its mastery of facts regarding policy and its push for zero tolerance in policy making. Singaporeans who are upset about privacy and transparency should also focus their minds on this. And the next time the government says that it doesn’t need an opposition to check it, some may want to remind it of the TraceTogether muddle.

    Ref: [from P N Balji - COMMENT: The TraceTogether affair is not just about privacy [Yahoo Mon, 11 January 2021]

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  • Cancer spread to SengKang GRC:

    Criminals will turn it off before crime.
    Then an innocent near crime scene may be investigated based on TT evidence which is a flawed logic.

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  • NotMyProblem:

    I just don’t see the need to have law to limit the use of TT data! Whatever law and rules introduced during this pandemic period is only meant for the control of the pandemic and it is supposed to be temporary with a stated duration.

    Like wear of masks and social distancing is only for this pandemic period. Anyone expected it to be permanent?

    So why waste time in debating on introducing laws to limit the use of TT’s data? Just give a directive to all agencies that TT’s data could only be used for contact tracing by MOH and nobody else, so simple isn’t it?

    Once this pandemic is over, the Trace Together tokens maybe to be returned to CC or discarded and the app to be erased from the phones. Are we expected to carry the tokens around for the rest of our lives?

    Please lah. Don’t make an easy solution so difficult, just to justify the million dollar salary!!!

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  • Harder Truths:

    Oppo has no balls. The so-called “leeder of the Opposition’ said he accepts the excuse of the pappy clowns.

    So we have a bigger problem. Whats is the point of having this opposition who f*cking do nothing on such a serious issue? Indeed, the time of real opposition is gone. So do not hold your breath for any change, If they cannot even challenge this kind of rotten behavior then voting them in the future will continue to have no effect on regime policies.

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