Singapore Introduced Contact Tracing App to Slow Coronavirus Spread

Author : Odisha Today Bureau | Posted on: 2020-03-25

Singapore has developed a new mobile app that can facilitate contact tracing should its users contract the coronavirus. Called TraceTogether, the app taps Bluetooth signals to detect other participating mobile devices in close proximity to allow them to identify those who have been in close contact when needed.


The app is able to estimate the distance between TraceTogether smartphones as well as the duration of such interactions. It identifies participating TraceTogether users who are within 2 metres of each other for more than 30 minutes. The data then is captured, encrypted, and stored locally on the user's phone for 21 days, which spans the incubation period of the virus.


When needed in contact tracing, users will have to authorise the uploading of their TraceTogether data to Singapore's Ministry of Health, which will then assess the information and retrieve the mobile numbers of close contacts within that period of time.

If one encounters a person who is later detected with Covid-19, the app will alert all users who were within two metres of that person for 30 minutes. Singapore is not the only country to try this technology; the UK and the US are both mulling on using GPS or Bluetooth to create such apps. China, on the other hand, is claimed to have launched a mass surveillance system to track patients.


While Singapore claims that data can only be shared if the user allows, such apps do raise privacy fears. In a national emergency, the wider social good will, of course, trump privacy, but given that people are already sceptical of future use of such technology, governments must reassure the masses that this won't be intrusive, if they want initiatives to be successful. A good idea would be to start by addressing concerns over data, and ensuring anonymisation even if users do share their details.


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