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Legislation to be introduced setting out serious offences for which TraceTogether data can be used for police probe

Legislation to be introduced setting out serious offences for which TraceTogether data can be used for police probe

A user displays a TraceTogether token in Singapore on Jan 5, 2021. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: The Government will introduce legislation setting out seven categories of serious offences for which TraceTogether data can be used for police investigations, said the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) on Friday (Jan 8). 

These include offences related to terrorism, drug trafficking, murder, kidnapping and serious sexual offences such as rape. 

Privacy concerns over the national contact tracing tool for COVID-19 were raised after it emerged in Parliament on Monday that under Section 20 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the police have the power to order anyone to produce any data - including TraceTogether data - for the purposes of a criminal investigation.

A day later, Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan clarified that the police can obtain TraceTogether data only through a person involved in the investigation.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam also told the House that the use of the data would be restricted to “very serious offences”.

READ: Police can only ask for TraceTogether data through person involved in criminal probe: Vivian Balakrishnan

"The Government will pass legislation to formalise these assurances," said SNDGO in a press release on Friday. 

"The legislation will specify that personal data collected through digital contact tracing solutions, which comprise the TraceTogether Programme and the SafeEntry Programme, can only be used for the specific purpose of contact tracing, except where there is a clear and pressing need to use that data for criminal investigation of serious offences," said the office.

"It is not in the public interest to completely deny the police access to such data, when the safety of the public or the proper conduct of justice is at stake," it added. 

"If a serious criminal offence has been committed, the police must be able to use this data to bring the perpetrators to justice, seek redress for the victims, and protect society at large."

READ: Singapore Police Force can obtain TraceTogether data for criminal investigations: Desmond Tan

SNDGO said the legislation will set out a full list of seven categories of serious offences for which the personal data collected for COVID-19 contact tracing can be used for police investigations, inquiries, or court proceedings.

The data cannot be used in the investigations, inquiries or court proceedings of any other offence besides the seven categories, which are as follows: 

Categories of serious offences to be covered. (Table: Smart Nation Singapore)

The legislation will be introduced in the next Parliament sitting in February on a Certificate of Urgency, said SNDGO.

A privacy statement on the TraceTogether website previously said that the data would only be used “for contact tracing purposes”. Following Monday's parliamentary sitting, the website was updated to mention that the Criminal Procedure Code applies to all data under Singapore's jurisdiction.

"We acknowledge our error in not stating that data from TraceTogether is not exempt from the Criminal Procedure Code," said SNDGO on Friday.

“We value the trust that the public has placed in the TraceTogether programme, and feedback from members of the public," it added.

"Dr Vivian and Mr Shanmugam held a public consultation today with members of the press, the legal fraternity, technology experts and academia, to hear their views on the matter. The views gathered will inform the debate on the upcoming legislation."

TraceTogether, which is used by more than 70 per cent of the population, was launched in March as a mobile app as part of Singapore's efforts to boost COVID-19 contact tracing. Tokens were later introduced for people who may not own or prefer not to use their mobile phones for this purpose.

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Source: CNA/zl(gs)

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