Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC, at the Second Reading of the COVID-19 Temporary Measures (Amendment( Bill (Bill No. 2/2021)
Mdm, the use of TraceTogether data has generated much public debate.
One month after this issue first arose in Parliament, we are now debating a piece of legislation introduced on a Certificate of Urgency to put in safeguards on the use of data.
In the past few months, the Bills, which have been fast-tracked all relate to COVID-19 measures.
I thank the Minister for acting just as quickly to address the public’s privacy and data protection concerns. But this is not simply an issue of privacy and data protection, it is also a public health concern.
Restoring the public’s trust in our national contact tracing infrastructure is important especially in these times. We read in the papers news of second, third waves in other countries.
We need to be ready on all fronts to suppress any outbreaks as quickly as humanly possible. We cannot now handicap ourselves by weakening the public’s trust in our contract tracing system.
I should also say that I understand the public safety and security needs to access TraceTogether data for certain serious crimes.
As a parent, if my daughters’ safety was at risk because of a kidnapping for example, I know I would want access to all data possible to keep them safe.
The question is not whether the data should be used, but what safeguards are in place.
I have 2 points to raise.
Operational protocols to safeguard TraceTogether data
First, can Minister explain what operational protocols are in place to ensure TraceTogether data used for serious crimes do not become used for investigations of less serious crimes?
For example, the SPF may access TraceTogether data for a suspect involved in a murder investigation. In the course of investigations, the TraceTogether data links the suspect to a separate petty theft committed.
Given that police investigations are fluid, how does the SPF ensure that use of the TraceTogether data is strictly confined to the 7 categories of serious crimes?
Study on impact on actual use of TraceTogether
Second, the debate over the past month may have impacted actual use of the TraceTogether app.
We already know from newspaper reports that some people are now choosing to turn their TraceTogether app off when meeting friends or when going out; we must measure the precise effect of such changes.
Can Minister share what specific data points does the TraceTogether team use to measure the impact of the government’s announcement on TraceTogether app’s actual usage?
Let me take an example. If we look at daily active users or weekly active users, we might well notice no change in usage.
But we might find, for example, that more people are actually turning on the TraceTogether application only once a day and turning it off for the rest of the day.
We may also find that mobile devices with TraceTogether apps are, on average, pinging with fewer devices than before, suggesting that the app or Bluetooth functionality may have been turned off.
Even if we mandate that the app is flashed at point of entry to a location, a user can subsequently turn off the app.
As I have said, I agree with the government that TraceTogether data should be used for very serious crimes.
But we have to deal with the reality that some people may find ways around use of the TraceTogether app, compromising our public health efforts.
For public health reasons, can Minister share what specific data analysis is used to trace whether actual compliance rate with TraceTogether app requirements do not go down?
Mdm, notwithstanding my clarifications I stand in support of the Bill.
Watch the speech here.