After reporting that the TraceTogether mobile application could not work well on certain mobile operating systems, Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan revealed in Parliament that the Government is developing a “wearable and portable” device for contact tracing.
Other than the device that will be planned to be distributed to everyone in Singapore, he said that the people who still want to use TraceTogether will still be able to do so.
Following this announcement on 5 June, a petition was created on Change.org by a Singaporean mountain bike coach, Wilson Low, to voice against the wearable contact tracing device. The petition was addressed towards the Government, describing how the authorities were planning to infringe the people’s rights to privacy, personal space, and freedom of movement.
Mr Low emphasised that this wearable device would not require the use of mobile phones or Bluetooth. He also explained that the device could potentially track the people’s movement around the clock, before listing out a few scenarios where the device would stop working.
“The only thing that stops this device from potentially being allowed to track citizens’ movements 24/7 are: if the wearable device runs out of power; if a counter-measure device that broadcasts a jamming signal masking the device’s whereabouts; or if the person chooses to live ‘off the grid’ in total isolation, away from others and outside of any smartphone/device effective range.”
Apart from describing what the device will be capable of doing, Mr Low predicted that the Government may establish a law to prevent citizens from turning the device off – inadvertently transforming the nation into a police state.
Therefore, he rejected the development of this contact tracing device, adding that the device – supposedly created “for the greater good” and “for the safety and protection of all Singaporeans” – is “false and baseless”.
“Thus, we reject the development of this contact tracing device. We view its advent and subsequent implementation with great suspicion and indignation.”
Mr Low went on to claim that the Government used the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to “surveil its citizens with impunity”. He also questioned the purpose behind monitoring the people by potentially decreeing the device “compulsory”.
“The Government looks to the Covid-19 pandemic as the perfect excuse to realise what it has always envisioned for us – this country’s populace: to surveil us with impunity, to track us without any technological inhibitions, and maintain a form of movement monitoring on each of us at all times and places. And to do so by decreeing it compulsory for all law-abiding persons to become ‘recipients’.”
He concluded his petition by declaring his rejection of developing a device when the TraceTogether app itself was deemed inefficient. He reminded Singaporeans that by accepting the contact tracing device, it would mean that they will be giving up their rights under fear of prosecution by the state, instead of having fear of getting infected with COVID-19.
At the time of writing, close to 40,000 people have signed the petition to support Mr Low.