Technology is seen as a good way to fend off the growing coronavirus situation. Most apps need data and information, a reason why the collection of personal data is essential. However, this is with the understanding that these will only be used to help find a solution for COVID-19.

Unfortunately, it has been found that personal data collected tied to apps meant to help resolve the pandemic were not limited to that. It appears that some agencies from around the world have broadened their use of collected data.

Singapore, a country that most felt would be the best model region to come up with a potential solution, has come under fire. Authorities admitted that they had used collected data in connection with a murder investigation, barely months after they promised it would be used solely for COVID containment, Bloomberg reported.

The government did apologize but it hardly mattered. Instead of backing down, they formalized that ability of police to tap into specific cases and such had cast a cloud of doubt in public trust. Also, seeing that other countries look up to them, could spark a similar practice from other countries.

“Singapore is saying to other governments, with a wink and a nod, that we’ve done it and you can do it too,” said Phil Robertson, the deputy director in Asia for Human Rights Watch. “Many countries look to Singapore as a success story, so they think whatever Singaporeans do must be good, and that’s a problem.”

Originally, the data collection was meant for use in an app called TraceTogether. It is a smartphone app and that makes use of Bluetooth technology to gauge the distance between users. This aids the government in being notified if individuals have been in contact with someone who’s tested positive for the virus.

However, divulging that that data is being used for some other means could create defiance among individuals and defeat its purpose. Rather than take control of the COVID-19 problem, some may opt not to participate and use tracking apps for fear of violation of privacy.

The surprising use of data via other means appears legitimate and for the benefit of the public. But unless a fine print is seen on what is meant for, it raises privacy concerns. It is a mess that needs to be addressed and consent appears to be the top issue right now.

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