Singapore is phasing out the use of a controversial Covid contact tracing app

(Bloomberg) – Singapore will walk away from a key Covid-19 contact tracing app that previously sparked controversy due to government disclosures about its use for criminal investigations, but will retain the data under a law previously adopted.

The Department of Health said on Friday that most sites will no longer require the public to register using the TraceTogether program from April 26, a mobile app and device used by authorities to identify contacts. close quarters and places visited by infected people.

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The TraceTogether program was initially rolled out at the start of the global pandemic in March 2020 as a Bluetooth-based mobile application. Since then, with a small device for those without a smartphone, it has become an almost ubiquitous presence among the city-state’s 5.7 million inhabitants, its use required as proof of vaccination and for s record in most public places, including restaurants, shopping malls. and attractions.

But the program, which the government initially said was a key tool to control the virus, sparked controversy after authorities revealed the data collected could be used for some police investigations and was used in a murder case.

Early last year authorities were forced to pass legislation in parliament allowing data to be used for purposes other than virus tracking only “where there is a clear and urgent need to use such data”. data for criminal investigations of serious offences,” despite criticism from opposition and rights groups. plan.

The Department of Health said on Friday that the data will still be used by police and law enforcement for these purposes under the law passed. Check-in will continue to be done at larger events with more than 500 attendees and at select nightlife establishments where proof of vaccination remains a requirement. He also encouraged the public to keep the app on their phone and keep the devices.

As the use of apps for functions such as contact tracing, testing and proof of vaccines has gained traction around the world during the pandemic, privacy concerns over their handling of personal data and a pivot towards life with the virus have led them to fall out of favor in places like the UK and Australia. They remain widely used in Asian countries including China and Malaysia.

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