two gray bullet security cameras

Singapore’s tech-utopia dream is turning into a surveillance state nightmare


[migrant workers] labor and their identities are clearly commodified, something which is, at times, heartbreakingly visible. In a country that’s notoriously obsessed with safety, where jaywalking and failing to wear a seatbelt can be punished with jail time, migrant workers can be transported on the expressways in the back of goods vehicles. Calls for change after a series of fatal accidents this year were rejected, on the grounds it would be too expensive for their employers.


The sprawl of TraceTogether and SGWorkPass combined is a common pattern, said Alex Au, vice president of advocacy group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) — that laws, systems and technology grow beyond their roots. “The nature of these multiple purpose apps is that one part of it may be legitimate or justifiable. But because [of that], you don’t question the other parts that come bundled together.”

In August 2020, the police added a new tool to help them physically monitor the dorms. They deployed another robot, M.A.T.A.R, as well as drones, to patrol the dormitories and enforce “safe distancing” rules.


But there is clearly discontent, on social media and in private conversations, about the pandemic rules, which have flipped from permissive to restrictive and back again as the country figures out how willing it is to “live with Covid.” Few experts expect that the additional surveillance measures put in place for contact tracing will ever end, even when the risk of transmission subsides. There’s a general acceptance that these are now permanent, political tools.


Several times, Wham has been caught up in the tightening space for dissent. In 2020, he was jailed for 10 days for hosting a live discussion via Skype with the Hong Kong pro-democracy figurehead Joshua Wong. A Facebook post saying that Singapore’s judges were less impartial than their Malaysian counterparts led to a charge of “scandalizing the judiciary.” Other online critics and independent media have been targeted with an array of legal tools, being forced to register as political organizations and being targeted by criminal defamation proceedings.


That’s but a small part of the whole article.

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