Police can’t assist in spyware enquiry

wikileaksEarlier on Monday, The Online Citizen (TOC) published a report on the purchases of licences for spyware by Singapore company, PCS Security Pte Ltd. (See here: “Weaponised German surveillance malware” purchased by S’pore company: Wikileaks.)

The purchase of the spyware, described by Wikileaks – which revealed the news – as “weaponised German surveillance malware” raised questions of its legality.

 TOC wrote to the police, also on Monday, to seek their assistance in clarifying the legality of the malware.

The police were asked if such malware is legal in Singapore and whether the act of spying on others is also illegal. Also, as one of the companies which is identified in the Wikileaks document is revealed to be a Singapore company, TOC asked if there were any legal issues with it possessing such technology and whether there are licensing requirements which the company should fulfill.

The police replied promptly on the same day.

We reproduce their reply, unedited, here:

Dear Sir,

I refer to your email of 15 September 2014.

2          We regret to inform you that we are unable to assist you in this matter. You may wish to seek advice from a legal counsel.

3          You may also consider approaching the Legal Aid Bureau (LAB). No prior appointment is required. However, the Bureau only provides legal aid and advice in civil matters to needy Singaporeans and Permanent Residents who qualify under the means test. For applicants who require legal aid, they must in addition to the means test, qualify for legal aid under a merits test.  Full details of the Means Test and Merits Test as well as other helpful information on the Bureau are available on the LAB website at the following link:http://www.lab.gov.sg.

4          We hope the information is useful to you and your understanding is appreciated.

5          Thank you.

Following the recommendations of the Singapore Police Force, this TOC reporter attempted to contact the legal aid for the clarification but was not able to proceed further. This is because the Legal Aid agency pointed out that for assistance to be granted, one needs to pass the means testing set by the department, to have less than $10,000 annual disposable income or $10,000 capital – a condition which the reporter failed to fulfill at the preliminary assessment.