According to Straits Times writer Irene Tham, “There is no way but to make use of Trace Together mandatory.”
Her reasoning for why the use of the Government tracking app should be made compulsory is because whilst it is ostensibly meant to reduce the tracking time of COVID-19 infected individuals, it has so far failed to achieve the desired results because it has not been forcibly implemented.
The view is totalitarian and misguided because it implies that Singaporeans are not using the app because they are wilfully choosing to ignore the greater good.
Many netizens have taken to Facebook (FB) to express their views on Tham’s draconian suggestion. Some have expressed that their phones did not have the necessary bandwidth for such an app or that they did not have a good enough data plan to support its continuous use. Yet others have said that for the app to be truly useful, it had to be constantly on which was not realistic as people do not take their phones with them everywhere they go.
Further, it is important to acknowledge that not every Singaporean is equipped to use a smart phone or even has a phone in the first place. Tham, in her ivory tower has perhaps neglected to think of this possibility.
Apart from the logistics of the issue, there is the bigger issue of data protection and citizen privacy after all this is over.
These powers have far ranging effects and once granted, will be difficult to claw back after the pandemic ends. Forcing everyone to download and utilise this app would be a reactive measure as opposed to a proactive one.
In the Singaporean context, it is arguable that had the Government not insisted on so many of its policies such as the “no masks if not unwell” and paid attention to the situation in the migrant worker dormitories, Singapore’s COVID-19 situation may well be already under control. Perhaps we could even be like New Zealand – being in a position to declare zero new cases. Why talk about the failure of an app when there was perhaps a failure of foresight?
In Singapore, we have a Government made up by a very dominant Peoples’ Action Party (PAP). What safeguards will we have that our data will not be potentially misused after the pandemic ends or additional features added to the app?
After all, we are not known to have a robust independent media that would be in a position to challenge this nor do we have enough opposition representation in Parliament to prevent this.