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Asia Pacific Dashboard Digest | Notes from the Asia-Pacific region, 26 June 2020 Related reading: Mozilla rolls out Firefox user tracking safeguard

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Dear, privacy pros.

In the next stage of its phased approach to the reopening of the economy, Singapore has further eased restrictions that were imposed during the circuit breaker period. Under Phase 2, aptly called "Safe Transition," most businesses and activities can resume with appropriate safe management measures in place.

As mentioned in an earlier introduction, quick and effective contact tracing is a prerequisite for Singapore to safely transition into the “new normal.” While the adoption rate of Singapore’s TraceTogether app has increased to approximately 2 million since that time, it still falls short of the target of three-quarters of the local population required for it to be effective.

Not unexpectedly, the government recently announced an initiative to roll out a wearable contact-tracing device called the TraceTogether token. The backlash that this initiative has been met with is also not surprising. As I write this, an online petition against the TraceTogether token has garnered more than 50,000 signatures. It will be interesting to see if the number of people signing the petition will eventually overtake the number of users on the app and to get greater clarity on how the government intends to require the use of the token.

The privacy concerns associated with the use of contact-tracing apps are real, as demonstrated by a recent study undertaken by the International Digital Accountability Council that found eight contact-tracing apps share user data with third parties without explicit consent. Nevertheless, while government authorities should certainly be held accountable and are responsible for implementing the necessary privacy safeguards, I believe these legitimate concerns do need to be weighed against countervailing public interest and societal needs.

Besides images of crowds thronging shopping malls and eating places, the sense that things are starting to feel more familiar again is reinforced when I look at my newsfeed and see that the number of articles about data breaches is overtaking pandemic-related articles, which has not happened for some time now. Two particularly concerning breaches are the potentially massive ones affecting web-tracking data from Oracle’s BlueKai and billing information from Twitter. I will leave it to you to digest the ramifications of these data breaches and other recent articles on the dashboard.

Before I leave you to do that, I wanted to briefly mention another breaking news coming out of Singapore. The Chief Executive of Infocomm Media Development Authority and Commissioner of the Personal Data Protection Commission Tan Kiat How stepped down from his role 20 June. Lew Chuen Hong, previously deputy chief executive (Development) of the IMDA, took over both roles on the same date.

As commissioner of the PDPC, Tan has led the evolution of Singapore’s personal data regulatory regime from one based on prescriptive compliance to one based on accountability. He guided the PDPC’s development of the Model AI Governance Framework, as well as the Data Protection Officer Competency Framework and Training Roadmap. He was also instrumental in Singapore’s participation in the APEC Cross Border Privacy Rules System and the launch of the Data Protection Trustmark.

I know that Tan has some exciting plans lined up, and I wish him all the best in his new endeavors!

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