Countries around the world are now developing their own applications or tracking devices to trace and control COVID-19 spread, including Singapore, that aims to make the use of TraceTogether mobile application or token compulsory for check-ins at popular venues.

This comes amid citizens’ concern that such tracking devices or applications may infringe upon their privacy or may be used for other purposes that are not related to public health.

In light of these concerns, DigitalReach initiated a project titled The Pandemic of Surveillance: Digital Contact Tracing in Southeast Asia” to shed light on the implications of digital contact tracing towards personal data protection and surveillance.

DigitalReach is an organisation that focuses on the impact of technology on human rights in Southeast Asia.

“Digital contact tracing apps and other technological efforts were introduced with the aim to control the pandemic. However, concerns have been raised regarding how much we are able to trust these efforts for our personal data and privacy protection,” it stated on its website.

DigitalReach’s latest project is set to be launched next Wednesday (18 Nov) at 8pm, with a panel discussion right after the launching.

The panel discussion will have two panellists, Irene Poetranto, a senior researcher at The Citizen Lab; and Hong Phuc Dang, the founder of FOASSIA. It will be moderated by DigitalReach’s founder Sutawan Ploy Chanprasert.

Some of the topics that will be covered in the panel discussion are “the overall situation of digital contact tracing in Southeast Asia”, and “the challenges that remain in aligning personal data protection with international best practices”.

The panellists will also touch on “how data protection is overlooked while the government continues to increase its efforts to encourage the use of digital contact tracing”.

DigitalReach also noted that the project resulted from its “months-long tracking efforts” on digital contact tracing in Southeast Asia, which will serve as a database for information on the development of such a technology in the region.

“The launch event will present our analysis of the problems and challenges facing digital contact tracing in Southeast Asia in terms of data and privacy protection and the potential of surveillance,” it added.

Registration for the launching event is now available via DigitalReach’s website.

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