Sudden change in the use of TraceTogether data erodes S’poreans’ trust in Govt

TraceTogether data use has become a talking point lately after it was revealed in Parliament this week that the Singapore police empowered to obtain TraceTogether data for criminal investigations under the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).

Though Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan explained that he “had not thought of the CPC” when he said at a press conference last June that TraceTogether data would be used “purely for contact tracing, period”, his explanation was not enough to regain the trust of Singaporeans.

Ng Yi-Sheng, a 40-year-old writer, told TODAY that he had deleted the app and started leaving his token at home as the sudden change in TraceTogether data use has caused him a “visceral feeling of betrayal”.

“It does feel like there has been a promise broken… It feels like choosing not to use TraceTogether – and to use only the other [SafeEntry system] – is the least I can do to assuage my emotions,” he said.

Mr Ng added that the sudden change in the use of TraceTogether data has also eroded people’s trust in him, as he has been speaking in the Government’s favour and encouraged his friends to adopt the contact tracing programme.

Tham Jun Han, a 27-year-old social entrepreneur, has decided not to use the TraceTogether app fully.

TODAY’s report highlighted that Mr Tham is disabling his phone’s Bluetooth when he is at home and outside, as compared to before where he would keep the app running in the background.

Another user, who only being identified as a 23-year-old final-year student at the National University of Singapore, has stopped using TraceTogether after learning that TraceTogether data can be obtained for criminal investigations.

TODAY reported that the student has created an email template on Wednesday (6 January) for those who want to voice out on the issue to their Member of Parliament (MP).

She noted that the document has been shared on her social media and messaging accounts, but could not confirm the number of views she received from the posts.

Sivakumar Rajendran, a 32-year-old communications executive, said that he would continue to use the COVID-19 contact tracing system, though he felt that the Government had taken the trust of the people for granted.

TODAY’s report also featured Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leong Mun Wai, who highlighted that the Government only disclosed such detail after a parliamentary question was raised.

Mr Leong noted that the Government should explain the circumstances under which the CPC will apply when it collects TraceTogether data in future.

Penning their thoughts under the comment section of TODAY’s Facebook post, many netizens said that the sudden change in the use of TraceTogether data has sparked trust issues among users towards the Government.

One netizen commented that her trust towards the Government has been “eroded” as the Government backtracked on its initial promise that the TraceTogether data would solely be used for COVID-19 contact tracing.

“I didn’t blindly sign up for ‘it is for the greater good’ spew. Trust has been placed upon the govt, and they should’ve honour it,” she said.

One netizen pointed out that the Government should have disclosed to the public that TraceTogether data can be obtained for criminal investigations from the beginning.

She noted that people were willing to adopt the programme due to the COVID-19 pandemic, despite when the contact tracing system “makes one feel being tracked with no privacy”.

One netizen commented that he would agree to allow the police to obtain TraceTogether data for criminal investigations, but he finds it is unacceptable that the Government cannot be transparent about the use of data, thus he would also turn off his phone’s Bluetooth.

He added that the Government’s contradicting statements indicated the possibility of them hiding “some nefarious content” from the public.

Another netizen wrote that though she acknowledged the Government has good intention in allowing the TraceTogether data to be obtained for criminal investigations, she noted that the sudden change just proved how frequent the Government would change their mind and how they cannot keep “a single promise”.

Some netizens raised the question as to what else the Government has lied about.

Others highlighted that the sudden change would erode the public’s trust towards the Government.


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