With a nearly 80 percent uptake among the country’s population, Singapore’s TraceTogether app is one of the best examples of what a successful centralized contact tracing effort can look like as countries across the world struggle to contain the coronavirus pandemic. To date, more than 4.2 million people in Singapore have download the app or obtained the wearable the government has offered to people.
In contrast to Apple’s and Google’s Exposure Notifications System — which powers the majority of COVID-19 apps out there, including ones put out by states and countries like California and Germany — Singapore’s TraceTogether app and wearable uses the country’s own internally developed BlueTrace protocol. The protocol relies on a centralized reporting structure wherein a user’s entire contact log is uploaded to a server administered by a government health authority. Outside of Singapore, only Australia has so far adopted the protocol.
What’s happening in Singapore is an example of the exact type of potential privacy nightmare that experts warned might happen with centralized digital contact tracing efforts. Worse, a loss of trust in the privacy of data could push people further away from contact tracing efforts altogether, putting everyone at more risk.