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Police may use TraceTogether data for criminal investigations: Desmond Tan

SINGAPORE — The police are allowed to access data gathered by TraceTogether tokens for criminal investigations, Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan said on Monday (Jan 4).

Police may use TraceTogether data for criminal investigations: Desmond Tan

Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan said 'stringent measures' are in place to safeguard the personal data gathered by the TraceTogether tokens.

SINGAPORE — The police are allowed to access data gathered by TraceTogether tokens for criminal investigations, Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan said on Monday (Jan 4).

They are empowered to do so under the Criminal Procedure Code, which allows the police to obtain any data for criminal investigations, he added.

Mr Tan was responding to a question in Parliament by Mr Christopher De Souza, Member of Parliament (MP) for Holland-Bukit Timah Group Representation Constituency (GRC), who asked whether TraceTogether data will be used for criminal investigations and whether there are any legal provisions and safeguards when the authorities use such data.

In his reply, Mr Tan said “stringent measures” are in place to safeguard the personal data gathered by the TraceTogether tokens.

Such measures include only allowing authorised officers to access the data, using it for authorised purposes and storing the data on a secured platform.

He added that public officers who recklessly or knowingly disclose the data without authorisation, or misuse it in any way, could be fined up to S$5,000, jailed up to two years, or both, under the Public Sector (Governance) Act.

In a supplementary question, Workers’ Party MP Gerald Giam asked whether the ability for the police to use the data for criminal investigations violates the privacy statement set out by the authorities.

Mr Giam, who is the MP for Aljunied GRC, also asked if the knowledge that TraceTogether data is being used for purposes other than contact tracing would lead to a lower than expected adoption rate, given that the programme is voluntary.

Responding to him, Mr Tan noted that TraceTogether was conceived and implemented for the purpose of contact tracing and fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, the Government may use the data obtained by the TraceTogether app or token in circumstances where citizens’ safety and security has been affected, he said.

“This applies to other data as well,” said Mr Tan, who added that authorised police officers may invoke the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) to obtain the data for the purpose of criminal investigation.

“But otherwise, TraceTogether data is indeed to be used only for contact tracing and for the purpose of fighting the Covid-19 situation.”

On Monday, the TraceTogether privacy safeguards web page was also updated, clarifying how the CPC applies to all data under Singapore’s jurisdiction.

“The Singapore Police Force is empowered under the CPC to obtain any data, including TraceTogether data, for criminal investigations,” the authorities noted, adding that they “want to be transparent with you”.

Previously, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, the Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative, had assured the public that the Government intends to use the logs from the TraceTogether app and token only for contact tracing purposes.

He also said that the device will not record its user’s location data and will not have Global Positioning System or mobile internet connectivity.

The data collected by the devices, which will be extracted only if the user is infected by the coronavirus, is encrypted and will be automatically erased after 25 days.

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