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TraceTogether token is NOT a tracking device, and has no GPS chip. Data is encrypted and never leaves the device

By June 9, 2020Current

TL;DR – Where do people go that they’re so afraid of being busted anyway? Can we all focus on the broader objective please? The TraceTogether app and device are to make Singapore a safer place for everyone.

Lord, I am so curious! At last check, over 30,000 people have signed the petition to say ‘No’ to the tracking device. Where the heck do these people go that they’re so afraid of people knowing??

And why are these people, in the same breath, so willing to give away all their information to online platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Tiktok?

Do they even know that this TraceTogether token does not even have a GPS chip? How then does it track where you are? And cos it doesn’t have any internet or telephony connectivity, the encrypted data stays in the device and does not get transmitted to big brother, you know?

So, the six million dollar question now is do these 30,000+ people even know what the heck they were signing when they signed on that extremely misleading petition??

Yea, basically it’s sprouting a pack of lies when it said, “The Government looks to the Covid-19 pandemic as the perfect excuse to realise what it has always envisioned for us – this country’s populace: to surveil us with impunity, to track us without any technological inhibitions, and maintain a form of movement monitoring on each of us at all times and places.”

That offending petition describes Singaporeans as “free, independent, and lawful members of the public of Singapore”.

Sure, but I want to add one more characteristic, “informed”.

What’s the point of being free and independent and lawful if you’re stupidly and mindlessly ignoring facts and stirring smelly things in the society?

I cannot believe I have to say this, as though this is not obvious enough.

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The COVID-19 pandemic is a global crisis.

We’re now facing a crisis of a generation.

Lives, millions of lives, are at stake. 

Yes, I get it that we need to strike the right balance between public health and personal privacy. But with the TraceTogether programme, it is possible to protect both.

The more impatient we are to ease up on the measures and to open up the economy even more, the more critical it is that we tighten our contact tracing effort.

Good contact tracing is absolutely essential if we are to break this chain of transmission that characteristises this COVID-19.

Why?

Cos it enables us to quickly identify the patient, to provide treatment for the patient quickly, and to isolate them so that the patient does not infect other people.

Why was Min Vivian Balakrishnan at the MTF press conference yesterday?

Yes, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation Initiative and Minister for Foreign Affairs, was a surprise special guest at the Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) press conference yesterday (June 8).

He was there to explain about the TraceTogether token.

The TL;DR version:

  • Contact tracing is essential, especially as we open up the economy more and more
  • Better contract tracing means we can identify and treat patients faster, isolate patients and their close contacts quickly.
  • Digital tools are useful for contact tracing work.
  • TraceTogether (app and token) are such digital tools.
  • TraceTogether has no GPS chip, so does not track your location.
  • TraceTogether has no internet or telephony connectivity, so the encrypted data stays with the device and does not get sent to anyone,
  • TraceTogether can help us stamp out clusters and save lives, without promising your personal privacy.

Here’s the transcript:

Now, one very useful tool so far has been TraceTogether. As of today, we have almost 1.8 million people who have downloaded and activated this app. 1.8 million in our context means about one quarter of our population. And this, I must stress, has been on a voluntary basis. So what I’m saying is that 25% is good, but it is not good enough and we need to raise that number significantly.

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One barrier that we have had to increasing that number is the fact that not everyone has a smartphone or a smartphone that works effectively enough to supply all the data that we need. So that’s why we took a decision to expand the TraceTogether programme to include a device. A device that we can going to call TraceTogether token (TT).

The device will operate and function exactly the same way TraceTogether on a smartphone does. So here’s where I need to emphasise and repeatedly emphasise.

It is not a tracking device. It is not an electronic tag as some Internet commentaries have fretted about.

In particular, and here to be technical, there is no GPS chip on the device. There isn’t even any internet or mobile telephony connectivity. And the next thing which I need to emphasise again to come back to TraceTogether and how it works, is that the data that TraceTogether, both on the phone as well as on the device, captures is only Bluetooth proximity data.

And that data never leaves the device or the phone, It is encrypted, It is stored for up to 25 days and automatically deleted.

The only time the data leaves the phone or the device is in the unlikely event that you are diagnosed with COVID-19.

One other point which has arisen is about data protection. Even the finite silos of data that are uploaded are protected by the public sector data security recommendations. The review committee will continue to oversee this and oversee this very tightly. All the officers involved are covered by the Official Secrets Act. And we will continue to audit and make sure that no data leakage occurs.

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Ultimately, the real test of the pudding is whether we can shorten the time from identification of a patient or close contact to isolation. Bring down the effective reproduction number of this epidemic. And also reassure the people that we are getting the balance right between protecting public health and protecting personal privacy.

No excuses for not knowing TraceTogether app and device do NOT track location

It’s not the first time Min Vivian has attempted to explain this. He also spoke about this in Parliament last Friday (June 5).

He said GPS not used, hence the Government cannot actively track your location. the device also does not have internet and telephony connectivity, so no data will leave the device. All the data, encrypted, stays with the device, with you.

Please do not forget the broader objective that the app and the wearable are are to make Singapore a safer place for everyone.

 

And I will leave you with an interesting post that explains how TraceTogether works.

 

 

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Gabrielle Teo

Author Gabrielle Teo

I read lots, and I also spend an indecent amount of time trying to get my mostly unpopular opinions published. Oh, I argue a lot with fellow Singaporeans who complain incessantly about Singapore too.

More posts by Gabrielle Teo

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