Singapore said it has removed personal data collected by its COVID-19 contact-tracing system, except for information related to a homicide case, which will be kept indefinitely.
The move comes a year after the country announced plans to shut down tracing systems last February after easing travel restrictions as the global pandemic stabilized. Efforts were also made to recover millions of Bluetooth-enabled wearables, which were distributed nationwide to detect and monitor user proximity, so that these devices could be refurbished and recycled for future use if needed.
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The TrustTogether and SafeEntry systems are no longer functioning and all COVID-related personal data collected from the two platforms has been deleted, confirmed the Smart Nation Group, a government agency that sits under the Prime Minister’s Office and is run by the ministry. Communication and information.
User registration data, which was kept to enable rapid rollout and registration for both systems, is also deleted when a new variant emerges.
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The only data retained was collected through the TraceTogether system and used in a May 2020 murder case. This information will be retained by the Singapore Police Force indefinitely to facilitate possible legal appeals, should the conviction or sentence be challenged years after the case has concluded. In these circumstances the police may be required to disclose the information.
In February 2021, Singapore passed new legislation allowing local law enforcement to access COVID-19 contact-tracing data. It came weeks after it was revealed that police could access the country’s TraceTogether contact-tracing data to investigate crimes, contradicting earlier claims that the data would only be used if a person tested positive for the coronavirus.
The legislation included the power to set a date for the government to shut down digital contact-tracing systems if they are no longer needed and to delete any personal data collected.
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The backend infrastructures of the TraceTogether and SafeEntry systems have also been dismantled and their frontend websites shut down. Also, TraceTogether and SafeEntry mobile apps for business have been removed from the official app store.
Launched in March 2020, the TraceTogether app taps Bluetooth signals to identify other participating mobile devices nearby, allowing the system to identify people in close contact when needed. Data was captured, encrypted and stored locally on the user’s phone for 21 days and, if required in contact-tracing processes, uploaded to the Ministry of Health for review.
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SafeEntry was used as a digital check-in system that collected data to facilitate contact tracing of individuals and the locations they visited, when they tested positive for COVID. QR codes were displayed at the entry and exit points of venues such as supermarkets and shopping malls, which visitors had to scan and then enter their name, national identity number and mobile number.
On top of that, there was TraceTogether Used by more than 90% of the local population.