Singapore says 'No' to wearable devices for Covid-19 contact tracing

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The Government of the Republic of Singapore proposes that wearable devices be adopted for use by the general population in near-future efforts to reliably achieve contact tracing of persons that have recently come into contact with a Covid-19 infected person.

Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation initiative, Vivian Balakrishnan, announced the proposal on June 5. He cited poor inter-operability of the existing Trace Together smartphone app across various brands of smartphones as well as the Government's subsequent non-compulsory usage stance as reasons for developing a wearable device. 

Such a device, if proven to be successful in trials - and subsequently made available to everyone - would allow contact tracers to locate a person's whereabouts based on their proximity to other persons' phones, cell towers, or potentially their wearable devices themselves.

This will be done regardless of whether the person has a phone or not; regardless whether their phone is switched off or on; whether that person is within reception of a cell tower or not; and regardless whether their phone has wifi or Bluetooth switched off or on.

The only thing that stops this device from potentially being allowed to track citizens' movements 24/7 are: if the wearable device runs out of power; if a counter-measure device that broadcasts a jamming signal masking the device's whereabouts; or if the person chooses to live 'off the grid' in total isolation, away from others and outside of any smartphone/device effective range. 

All that is stopping the Singapore Government from becoming a surveillance state is the advent and mandating the compulsory usage of such a wearable device. What comes next would be laws that state these devices must not be turned off/remain on a person at all times - thus sealing our fate as a police state. 

Thus, we reject the development of this contact tracing device. We view its advent and subsequent implementation with great suspicion and indignation. The claims that such a device be implemented 'for the greater good' and for 'the safety and protection of all Singaporeans' are false and baseless. According to media reports, the non-successful adoption of the Trace Together app can be superceded by the next step that state-sanctioned technological advancements can offer: and this is it.

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. And to do so by decreeing it compulsory for all law-abiding persons to become 'recipients'.

We - as free, independent, and lawful members of the public of Singapore - condemn the device's implementation as blatant infringements upon our rights to privacy, personal space, and freedom of movement. We reject the notion that the non-efficacy of the Trace Together initiative be superceded by a regime that could potentially require all members of the public (regardless of their age, susceptibility to disease, or health status) to give up these rights under fear - not of infection from Covid-19 - but of prosecution by the state.