While data from TraceTogether will be deleted at the end of police investigations if it is not of any particular use, such data “will have to be produced in court” when necessary, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam in Parliament on Tuesday (5 January).
Mr Shanmugam was responding to a question from Holland-Bukit Timah GRC Member of Parliament (MP) Christopher de Souza on whether data from TraceTogether will be deleted at the end of police investigations should it not yield anything relevant or significant to the case.
“If the data is of no particular use, yes, it will be deleted. Otherwise, it will have to be produced in court,” said the minister.
Mr Shanmugam added that such data may also be used for trial purposes even if it is not produced in court.
Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh posed a question on under what circumstances will the TraceTogether data be used in police investigations, given that “police investigations would by nature of our legislation comprised of a wide spectrum of offences”.
Mr Shanmugam replied that under Section 20 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), the police are authorised to recover or seek any information within the possession of a person as long as the process is “not excluded by some other written law”.
“There are some provisions in some written laws which circumscribe the exercise of police powers,” said the minister.
Mr Shanmugam cited the example of a murder case in which information that may be related to the victim and the victim’s family is available on the TraceTogether token or app.
“If police chose not to seek that information, you can imagine how the victim’s family, and indeed the rest of Singapore, might react to that situation. You could even argue that there can be a judicial review application in such a situation.
“However, given that the TraceTogether token is necessary for dealing with the pandemic, it is of national importance, and its purposes are to help us deal with the pandemic,” he said.
Thus, the police’s approach “has been, and will be” that the use of TraceTogether data is “pretty much restricted to very serious offences”, said Mr Shanmugam.
While such a requirement is not currently in the legislation, it will be carefully considered within the police, and discretion will be exercised in seeking information from TraceTogether, he added.
Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan told Parliament on Monday that police are empowered to obtain any data under the CPC, including data from TraceTogether.
Mr de Souza raised the question of whether TraceTogether data will be used for criminal investigations and what legal provisions and safeguards are present in using such data.
In response, Mr Tan noted that authorised police officers are allowed to access TraceTogether data for authorised purposes.
“The Government is the custodian of the TT [TraceTogether] data submitted by the individuals and stringent measures are put in place to safeguard this personal data,” said the Minister.
“Examples of these measures include only allowing authorised officers to access the data, using such data only for authorised purposes and storing the data on a secured data platform,” he added.
According to Mr Tan, public officers who disclose such data without authorisation or misuse the data may be fined up to S$5,000 or jailed up to two years or both.
Aljunied GRC MP Gerald Giam asked if the use of such data would violate the TraceTogether privacy statement, raising concern that this may reduce voluntary adoption of the TraceTogether token or app.
Mr Tan answered: “We do not preclude the use of TraceTogether data in circumstances where citizens’ safety and security is or has been affected, and this applies to all other data as well.”
“Authorised police officers may invoke then the Criminal Procedure Code … Powers to obtain this data for the purpose of a criminal investigation, and for the purpose of the safety and security of our citizens.
“Otherwise, TraceTogether data is indeed to be used only for contact tracing and for the purpose of fighting the COVID situation,” he added.