The Government of Singapore has rolled out a number of initiatives in response to the coronavirus that significantly restrict the privacy and civil liberties of those living in the city state.
TraceTogether is an app which Singapore citizens and residents can download that will track their movements to allow contact tracing, partly by accessing data created by other apps on your phone. The expectation of the Government is that users will hand over this information to the Ministry of Health.
When a person is contacted by MOH, he/she is required by law to assist in the activity mapping of their movements and interactions, and may be asked to provide any information within his/her knowledge or produce any document or record in his/her possession. This includes location timelines and logs in physical or digital form, including data collected and stored by other popular apps in your phone.
Meanwhile, another scheme which will be far harder to avoid is the SafeEntry system which basically necessitates participation if a person is to buy food, go to work, attend a doctor’s appointment, or go to school. Someone who wished to refuse to participate would effectively have to go on hunger strike to do so. Whatever assurances about data privacy may be given, there is no way of knowing for sure who is accessing the data, and for what purposes, and public surveillance systems are notoriously open to abuse.
From 12 May 2020, all businesses and services that are in operation at the following list of facilities/places must deploy the SafeEntry system to log the check-in of employees and visitors.
- Workplaces e.g. offices, factories
- Schools and educational institutes
- Healthcare facilities e.g. hospitals, clinics, TCM clinics
- Residential care facilities e.g. nursing homes
- Selected popular wet markets (Geylang Serai Market, Block 104/105 Yishun Ring Road (Chong Pang Market), Block 20/21 Marsiling Lane, and Block 505 Jurong West Street 52)
SafeEntry will also be progressively rolled out to taxis from 12 May 2020 to better support contact tracing efforts for street-hail trips. Commuters should scan the SafeEntry QR codes deployed in taxis when taking street-hail trips.
What if one doesn’t want to carry a smartphone? What about those of us who refuse to be tracked wherever we go?
All of this comes as Boston Dynamics has unleashed robodogs at a select location to patrol the streets, and warn people to stay two metres apart.
The incremental nature of the growth of the surveillance state means that there is rarely protests about new initiatives, and even less commonly, measures taken to roll it back.
Crises offer an opportunity for technology companies, technocrats and authoritarian-minded leaders to expand surveillance.
The era of surveillance technology – which started with the invention of the camera – is different from the nosey neighbour or village busybody of yesteryear in that an indelible record is created of a person’s activity in public places.
These records are now being created, collected and collated ubiquitously.
They undermine Singaporeans’ right to lead a private life in public places.
Singapore has gradually transformed itself into one of the least free places on the planet.
Hopefully, Singaporean voices for freedom from technoservitude will speak up, and the country’s leadership will resist transforming the entire country into a larger version of the Changi Prison Complex.
Article Licence: CC BY-ND 4.0