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Asia Pacific Dashboard Digest | Notes from the Asia-Pacific region, 29 May 2020 Related reading: Mozilla rolls out Firefox user tracking safeguard

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Dear, privacy pros.

I hope that you have been keeping well since my last update.

Singapore is slated to come out of the “circuit breaker” period next week, although businesses will only be allowed to gradually reopen in phases. Normalcy — whatever that looks like after COVID-19 — will only be fully restored in the third phase. This is dependent on the discovery of a viable vaccine, which some bullish commentators anticipate will come by end of this year.

In the meantime, the Singapore government announced Tuesday another supplementary budget christened the Fortitude Budget (after the Unity, Resilience and Solidarity Budgets) to help affected businesses tide over financial difficulties imposed as a result of the measures. In total, the Singapore government is spending close to $100 billion to support businesses and workers and drawing down on national reserves for the second time within a span of two months.

A significant portion of the support will be dedicated to helping local businesses, particularly SMEs, digitize, which may bring about some interesting privacy issues given a lot of these companies are not used to and may not be well-equipped to handle large amounts of personal data. Hopefully, part of the support disbursed will help companies put the right systems and processes in place, as well as help workers upskill themselves to properly manage the digitization drive.

Privacy-protective technology, like the application programming interface privacy startup Evervault, is trying to build and commercialize, will no doubt be critical in the post-COVID-19 future. A few other examples I can think of the Brave internet browser and Zcash digital currency.

Another interesting piece of news I read recently is that 9 in 10 local workers would like to continue some form of work-from-home arrangement after the CB period. This will no doubt increase the importance of “tattlerware” and other types of digital surveillance technologies that I mentioned in my last letter.

Finally, the Singapore government has been pushing for stronger adoption of its contact tracing app, TraceTogether. It has strongly recommended that companies ensure that employees download and install the app before allowing them to resume working in the office. However, it is somewhat odd that the Singapore government has stopped short of making the app mandatory since they have already done so for SafeEntry (which allows individuals to check in and out of premises they are visiting). It is even stranger when one considers how much more invasive it is for the Singapore government to attempt to pass a law that intervenes in commercial relationships between landlord and tenants and effectively forces landlords to grant certain tenants rental waivers.

I don’t pretend to have the answer to these questions. Just something for everyone to chew on while they digest the rest of the news in this week’s dashboard.

Enjoy, and continue staying safe!

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