350 people have asked to delete TraceTogether data in past month, but 390,000 have joined: Vivian Balakrishnan

Data is auto-deleted every 25 days in most cases.

Jane Zhang | February 03, 2021, 05:06 PM

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The TraceTogether programme has faced some criticism, after it was announced in Parliament in January that the data can be used for police investigations.

In Parliament on Tuesday (Feb. 2), Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan said that in the one month prior, 350 people have asked for their TraceTogether data to be deleted.

Each of the 350 requests has been a 'source of regret'

"Every one of that 350 who has requested us to delete is a source of regret for me, because at least 350 have, for a variety of reasons, decided to forego the protection that TraceTogether offers them and their loved ones," Vivian said.

However, on the other hand, he shared that during the same one month period, over 390,000 people have joined the TraceTogether programme.

He stated the he did not wish to "belabour" the point, but shared his guess for the large take-up rate:

"My simple conclusion, or inference, is that Singaporeans know that I misspoke, but they also trust the TraceTogether system is safe — it does what it is supposed to do, it protects public health.

And they also trust the police to always behave lawfully."

Previously said that data would only be for contact tracing purposes

Back in June 2020, Vivian had said that TraceTogether data would only be accessed for contacting tracing purposes.

However, on Jan. 4, 2021, it was revealed in Parliament that under the Criminal Procedure Code, police may access TraceTogether data for investigations.

In Parliament on Jan. 5, Vivian admitted that he "had not thought of the CPC when [he] spoke [earlier]".

On Tuesday (Feb. 2), Vivian said that he takes "full responsibility" for the "anxiety" and "consternation" that was caused by the revelation that TraceTogether data can be used in police investigations.

Requesting for data to be deleted

For people who wish to have their TraceTogether data deleted, it is possible to send in a request.

However, data will be deleted automatically every 25 days, unless it is part of an open cluster or used in an ongoing investigation or court proceeding involving one of the seven serious offences.

As for people "gaming" the system by downloading the TraceTogether app but turning off Bluetooth to render it non-functional, Vivian reminded everyone that the programme is meant to protect themselves and their loved ones.

He added, "I would just ask you why. Why deprive yourself and your loved one that sort of protection?"

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Top photos via MCI and Mothership file photo.