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Asia Pacific Dashboard Digest | Notes from the Asia-Pacific region, 5 March 2021 Related reading: Notes from the Asia-Pacific region, 26 Feb. 2021

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Dear, privacy pros.

As we march (pun intended) into the second quarter of 2021, I hope the dust is settling on the vaccination schedule in your country and that we won’t hear more news of people jumping the queue.

Things have been generally quiet in Singapore after a muted Lunar New Year, bereft of the usual loud cheers during “lou hei” dinners and the cacophony of drums and cymbals during lion dance performances.

My colleague Jason Lau has already mentioned the major data breach SingTel recently suffered due to a vulnerability in a third-party file-sharing system it used. Given that a number of our readers may come from Singapore, I thought I would also share this page from SingTel, which sets out some updates and resources for users affected by the breach.

In other news from Singapore, the Ministry of Home Affairs recently shared that since 2012, almost 90,000 police cameras have been installed in public locations, including housing estates, neighborhood centers and car parks. Home Team agencies appear to be harnessing technology to effectively analyze the information captured by these cameras, and more than 4,900 cases have been solved using such data in just the last couple of months since December.

With statistics like that, it comes as no surprise that the government intends to install more police cameras island-wide in the coming years. Readers familiar with my random ramblings in these posts will not be surprised to know I am a firm advocate for the need to balance an individual’s right to privacy against the public interest of enabling a society to better protect its members from harm.

That said, I do think the relevant authorities could do a better job at assuring citizens that adequate data minimization and privacy protection measures have been baked into the system. And, to the extent, security considerations would not be compromised, provide more transparency on how the data would be accessed, processed and eventually disposed of, especially since the government is not subject to the Personal Data Protection Act but an opaque set of internal guidelines.

Notwithstanding surveys showing public sentiment favors installing police cameras at prominent locations because it makes them feel safer, I believe the disclosure of more detailed information on the processing of data captured by the cameras would help assuage any lingering reservations against the threat of increased surveillance — particularly against the backdrop of recent missteps with the implementation of the TraceTogether program.

With that as food for thought, I shall leave you to digest the remaining articles in this week’s lineup. Happy reading! 

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