Forum: Contact tracing app is safe, secure and needed as Singapore opens up

We thank Mr Yong Jun Jie, Mr Sean Lim and Mr Darius Lee for their letters (Clearer govt communication can ease privacy concerns; Contact tracing app already has an effect at current take-up rate; and Transparent rules needed on use of contact tracing data, all on June 12).

Effective contact tracing is critical as Singapore opens up, and the TraceTogether programme is an important component of this effort.

To date, 1.8 million people have downloaded the app. As Mr Lim has pointed out, this number is already useful in our contact tracing efforts, together with digital tools like SafeEntry.

But we can do better. We are rolling out the TraceTogether Token to include the digitally-excluded and those without the requisite smartphones.

We agree with Mr Yong that clear and open communication is necessary. Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan and Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary have been engaging the media and the community to explain the rationale and the features of the token, and to allay the public's concerns and anxieties. We will continue to do so.

Mr Lee has rightly pointed out the privacy concerns, and it is our responsibility to assure Singaporeans that their personal data is safeguarded and used appropriately to fight the pandemic.

The data collected by TraceTogether will be used only for contact tracing. It is encrypted and resides in the device, be it the TraceTogether app or token, and is to be accessed only by the authorities if a user tests positive for Covid-19.

The Government takes a serious view of data protection and is committed to ensuring the necessary data security safeguards are in place. For more information on this, please visit: www.smartnation.gov.sg

We also take the issue of public trust seriously, especially in the areas of cyber and data security.

We've set up a microsite for the public to report incidents involving unauthorised disclosure.

We've drawn on the expertise of the public to help strengthen the security of government information and communications technology infrastructure and digital services via the Government Bug Bounty Programme.

We open-sourced the TraceTogether code for the community to help us improve it, and we will be engaging the community again in a hackathon to tear down the proposed TraceTogether Token, and partner us to improve in this national contact tracing effort.

Huang Weixian

Director, Adoption and Engagement

Smart Nation and Digital Government Office

Prime Minister's Office