Singapore Preparing Contact Tracing Device but Citizens Might Disagree

The Singaporean government is looking to develop and deploy a wearable contact-tracing solution, but the proposal was met with resistance amid privacy concerns.

Singapore seems to have been one of the few success stories in containing the COVID-19 outbreak, and it’s one of the first places where the government implemented a software tracing application. It’s called TraceTogether, and it’s designed to be used voluntarily.

Even though it was installed and used by around one million people, it’s still not nearly enough. That and the fact that the app didn’t work on older devices lacking the necessary technology, forced the government to look elsewhere. A new wearable device in the works should solve most of the technical problems, but there’s a civic problem.

Singaporean citizen Wilson Low started a petition named “Singapore says ‘No’ to wearable devices for Covid-19 contact tracing” that attracted attention. Its numerous signees worry about the privacy implications of the device.

“Such a device, if proven to be successful in trials – and subsequently made available to everyone – would allow contact tracers to locate a person’s whereabouts based on their proximity to other persons’ phones, cell towers, or potentially their wearable devices themselves,” reads the petition.

While it might sound bad, the government and the minister in charge of the Smart Nation initiative, Vivian Balakrishnan, said the devices only have Bluetooth connectivity and store the data for 25 days. There is no GPS chip nor other communication technology. It’s going to be difficult to convince people about its inner workings without making the source code available to the public.

For now, the new wearable device is still just a proposal, but that might change if the COVID-19 pandemic makes a return in the near future. Also, it’s unknown whether the government will be willing to take the petition into account.

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *