Skip to main content

Advertisement

Advertisement

New TraceTogether token to have no GPS or internet connectivity to track user’s whereabouts: Vivian Balakrishnan

SINGAPORE — The portable contact-tracing device that the Government is developing will not record its user’s location data and will not have Global Positioning System (GPS) or mobile internet connectivity, the Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation initiative Vivian Balakrishnan said.

New TraceTogether token to have no GPS or internet connectivity to track user’s whereabouts: Vivian Balakrishnan

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said that the Government was developing and would soon roll out a portable wearable device that will achieve the same objective as the TraceTogether mobile app in enabling contact tracing.

SINGAPORE — The portable contact-tracing device that the Government is developing will not record its user’s location data and will not have Global Positioning System (GPS) or mobile internet connectivity, the Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation initiative Vivian Balakrishnan said.

He also said that the Bluetooth proximity data collected by this device will be encrypted in the device, is auto-erased after 25 days. It will be extracted only if the user is infected by Covid-19.

Dr Balakrishnan was speaking during a media briefing on Monday (June 8) held by the governmental task force tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

The first batch of these devices, which will be named the TraceTogether token, will be delivered in the later half of this month and progressively distributed to Singapore households, he added.

In a statement on Monday, Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG), which is the Government-led initiative behind the application, said that the token will be a standalone device that functions in “the same way" that the TraceTogether mobile application does — by using Bluetooth signals to record other nearby TraceTogether devices.

The token has no GPS, which means the device does not capture geolocation data and only proximity data. “This means a person cannot be tracked, and no one will know where the person has been,” it added.

If a user is infected with Covid-19, the data from the token would then be extracted by authorised contact tracers from the Ministry of Health. SNDGG added that only a “small number of personnel have access to the data for contact tracing purposes”.

Dr Balakrishnan also gave the assurance that there will not be “one, big, giant central database” that will hold the data collected by these tokens, adding that since the tokens do not have internet connectivity, users’ data cannot be extracted without their knowledge.

“Even the finite silos of data that are uploaded are protected by the public sector data security recommendations. All the officers involved are covered by the Official Secrets Act and we will continue to audit and make sure no data leakage occurs,” Dr Balakrishnan said.

“We will continue to test the devices and test our systems… and also reassure people that we are getting the balance right between defending public health and protecting personal privacy. I believe it is possible to protect both.”

Dr Balakrishnan had said in Parliament last Friday that the Government was developing and would soon roll out a portable wearable device that will achieve the same objective as the TraceTogether mobile app.

He said that unlike the app, this device will not depend on the need for users to possess a smartphone, adding that if this portable device works, the Government might then distribute it to everyone in Singapore.

PROBLEMS WITH APPLE DEVICES

Dr Balakrishnan had noted on Friday that aside from the fact that not everyone has a smartphone, there were other issues with the TraceTogether app, which has so far been downloaded 1.5 million times or by about 25 per cent of the population.

It does not appear to work as well on Apple devices because the iOS operating system suspends Bluetooth scanning when the app is running in the background, he said.

“We’ve had repeated discussions both at the technical and policy level with Apple, but we have not yet been able to find a satisfactory solution.”

Over the weekend, some Singaporeans raised concerns about privacy issues related to the wearable device.

A petition titled “Singapore says 'No' to wearable devices for Covid-19 contact tracing” has since gathered more than 32,000 signatures.

The Singapore People’s Party released a statement on Sunday (June 7) expressing its concerns about the risk as well, that the data collected may be abused. It said that the pandemic does not justify the need for a wearable contact tracing device and that the Government should select more “proportionate measures”.

Related topics

TraceTogether contact tracing Covid-19 coronavirus privacy Vivian Balakrishnan

Read more of the latest in

Advertisement

Popular

Advertisement

Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.

Aa