DEV Community

Max Ong Zong Bao
Max Ong Zong Bao

Posted on

Is Singapore a Surveillance State?

Recently, I stumbled across a article recommended by Google News. The article was written by Rest of World called Singapore’s tech-utopia dream is turning into a surveillance state nightmare given it's a super click baity title.

So I took the plunge and read the article, to my horror the article was really a messy piece of writing. That is littered with a jigsaw puzzle of tech projects in Singapore to frame a narrative that Singapore is a surveillance state. While bashing local tech community efforts like in the good work they had done.

What surprises me the most were the reporter in misquoting and being shady of the article they are publishing.

I had gotten this from Facebook which the reporter had gotten one of them as their source. Nothing in this email says anything about being surveillance state. You can imagine how a person might feel when the article was published.
Image description

To be honest, I am one of those people that is against mass surveillance. Especially when my country started rolling out their contact tracing app using bluetooth called TraceTogether. I was initially against on the prospects of installing a tracking app on my phone. But thankfully, after reading about GovTech our version of the Government Digital Services in the UK or US Digital Service in the US.

They were focusing on creating a small portable version of bluetooth token for TraceTogether. What went above and beyond is that they invited prominent hardware hackers or hardware enthusiasts like Andrew Bunnie Hung to do a tear down of the bluetooth token. Which they really don't need to do this, given they had all the power to do this forcefully without listening to the people on the ground.

After reading multiple articles on the tear down of these bluetooth token, this gave me confidence to get one for myself and for my family serving my parents who is less technology savvy like me.

Early this year, these same bluetooth tokens was was used for a criminal investigation, almost immediately the Singapore government spring forth and setup laws on the use of these tokens for criminal investigation.

I hope for anyone who has read that article by Rest of World could make your own decisions if Singapore is really a surveillance state due to our local tech projects and communities promoting mass surveillance to gather your personal data. I leave this to you my dear readers to discuss on the article or about mass surveillance.

Discussion (2)

danielltw profile image
Daniel Leong πŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¬

My take on this topic.

We have our Identification card and number which is shared across all government department. So they have a massive data warehouse that stores our other information in relation to that one ID number.

Not sure what other surveillance do they do, but hope that any data they have on me would be secure. :P

steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao Author • Edited on

Those are not that really useful especially the ones that require a equivalent of a social security to access that is guarded under lock and key

It only becomes useful if there is access to health or credit cards records that most would follow HIPPA.

From my understanding, most of Singapore government's agencies has their own data officer or custodian to judge if a certain piece of info is allowed to be share or distributed which include our social security number among agencies.

My type of mass surveillance is more of judging you based upon your lifestyle that is almost like China's social credit system or Stasi equivalent.

From what I know is that there is military units, intelligence agencies or law enforcement agencies looking in our social media network by automated tagging of potential extremist, anti-social behaviour or any classified information that that should not be on the internet.

I might be wrong, but privacy laws in US/UK doesn't allow automated tagging individuals as person of interest for further investigation just because of certain online behaviour in their social media network or other online communities.