Let’s not be too “smart” for our own good.

Let’s not be too “smart” for our own good.

Reading a description of the future of Singapore, starting with the ambitious plans to create a futuristic Orchard Road, one could be forgiven for thinking that it is a page out of a sci-fi novel. With sensors on “every lamppost, on every tree, in every public pool and drain pipe, every citizen’s transaction via ePayments and driverless cars zipping around – I wonder if it is all too much. Honestly, I am not sure I want to live like this. There’s “smart” and there’s totally invasive. Why do we need sensors on every tree and lamppost when we can’t even prevent hacks from occurring within our existing technology?

Just this year, our health system suffered a cyber breach of epic proportions which saw the details of 1.5 million people stolen, including the private details of our Prime Minister! The Committee of Inquiry (COI) that was set up to investigate this incident is not even concluded and yet we already have news of the detection of multiple unauthorised log-in attempts on the Health Promotion Board’s (HPB) HealthHub portal over four days. With all of these incidents straining the limits and abilities of our cyber security systems, why are we planning more and more outrageously unnecessary plans?

It is important to point out that sensors with facial recognition technology is extremely invasive. If the government can’t even keep our phone numbers safe and private, how can we trust that they will be able to keep even more intimate and personal information such as what these sensors will detect safe?

Reading reports on these far fetched ideas, I cannot help but wonder if the government holds the data of its citizens in any form of regard. As citizens, do we even consent to our facial features being captured and saved for perpetuity in this manner? Secondly, to push ahead with being even more “smart” when we have not even resolved the SingHealth breach gives off the impression that the government feels zero accountability for our personal data.  Are our privacy issues and data security so inconsequential to them that they can be so flippant?

How much will all this “smart” technology cost? Has a comprehensive cost benefit analysis been done? The last thing we need is a vanity project that may make Singapore look good internationally but in actuality has little effect on improving the day to day lives of the average citizen. If all these measures are implemented without in depth and foolproof security measures installed, a hack that will dwarf the SingHealth hack could occur. What will the government do then? Let’s not be too “smart” for our own good.

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