Facial recognition technology: Is our privacy respected and valued by the government?


I read with alarm that Singapore is seeking to introduce facial recognition technology on the streets of Singapore and is currently at the testing stage. The reasoning behind this invasive move is allegedly to tackle the problem of terrorism.

Singapore to date, has managed to foil terrorist plots without the need for this type of technology – why the sudden change?

Is terrorism really such a viable threat in Singapore?

Secondly, has the use of this technology been debated in Parliament? If not, why not?

In this day and age of social media, there are very few bastions of privacy left. Is there really a need to take our freedom to walk on the streets away as well? And even if there ends up being a justifiable need to take away our remaining few freedoms away, should we not be given a say?

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said that the Smart Nation project was aimed at improving people’s lives and that he did not want it done in a way “which is overbearing, which is intrusive, which is unethical”. What is conspicuously missing is how exactly this can be done in a way which will not be intrusive or overbearing? Also, how will this invasion improve our lives?

Perhaps in the creation of more jobs given that we will need more people to monitor the data being harvested? (This is tongue in cheek)

Having your face scrutinised as you go about your business with such data being stored for perpetuity is invasive and overbearing no matter how you package it. This leads to other questions on data storage. How will our data be safely stored? Who has access to it? How long will it be stored for?

There are also added concerns on whether these sensors will have the ability to look through the windows of homes and scrutinise what the occupants do in the privacy of their homes?

There are many concerns that need to be addressed and it may well be that the need for such technology outweighs the invasion of privacy. However, until and unless a public dialogue is had, we cannot come to that conclusion.

Introducing this technology is worrying enough, the fact that is it being announced without any public consultation whatsoever makes it all the more chilling.

Have all the pros and cons been appropriately considered? Is our privacy respected and valued by the government?