Revealing empty promises

Remember the resistance a majority of us have towards Bluetooth-enabled tracking for pandemic-quashing efforts? Our Singapore neighbours have a pretty good Bluetooth-based contact tracing app, Trace Together, which Smart Nation’s Minister Vivian Balakrishnan cited as not compulsory to use.

Perhaps because of this non-compulsory stance, the population was relatively quiet about the introduction of TraceTogether compared to when the Singapore government proposed a wearable device, later in June.

From what little is known about the wearable device at the time, it uses Bluetooth technology and works much like a proximity tracker. Mr. Vivian had elaborated that the device would not use GPS or cellular technology, and this is generally perceived to mean, there is no movement tracking.

Currently, a token appears to have replaced the proposed wearable device. Closer inspection of this token by the extremely curious, has somewhat allayed concerns of privacy infringements.

Also, tokens or the app are required to be able to access certain places like shopping malls, according to one news website.

Perhaps due to this, the June fiasco over the proposed wearable device died down (somewhat), and contact tracing app and token take up, has been growing.

Then comes the kicker

 Eight days into the new year, lo and behold, a Smart Nation press release appears stating, “We acknowledge our error in not stating that data from Trace Together is not exempt from the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).”

So privacy statements by the Trace Together app and Safe Entry (a check-in attendance to public locations programme), that say:

“Your data will only be used for COVID-19 contact tracing”

…is actually completely meaningless.

Now, the police can obtain collected data for the purpose of criminal investigations.

Imagine the shock and confusion when Vivian Balakrishnan himself had said in June, 2020, (some six months ago) that TraceTogether data would be used “purely” for contact tracing.

As it turns out, there is the CPC which empowers the police and gives them access to this very same data.

But No.One. Thought. To. Inform. The. Minister. About. It.

While we let that sink in. Here is another revelation:

And. It. Has. Been a Good. Six. Months. Since. The. Minister. Said. What. He. Said before they decided to clarify and mention the Criminal Procedure Code.

All we have are politicians’ words

All we have are politicians’ words and privacy statements, and we have seen from Singapore’s case, that even these can backpedal with potential to undermine contact tracing efforts till now.

What are Malaysians to do?

IT BYTES BACK! Says: Very similar doubts and concerns plague Malaysians.  Will our data be kept private and be used only for objectives we have expressly understood and expressly agreed to: contact tracing?

Perhaps it is time to make verbal promises especially those by politicians, legally binding?