Singapore will open source the underlying technology of TraceTogether

Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore foreign minister, announced this week that the government is preparing to open source the underlying technology of TraceTogether, a mobile application to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through community-driven contact tracing. TraceTogether traces close contact with people diagnosed with the coronavirus to help curb the spread of the epidemic.

TraceTogether works by exchanging short-range Bluetooth signals between mobile phones (so the device must keep Bluetooth turned on) to detect other users using TraceTogether at close range. These close contact records will be stored on each user’s mobile phone, the data will be encrypted and will not be uploaded over the network. If users are diagnosed with an infection, the government will ask them to provide data to track people who have had close contact with them. In addition, the Ministry of Health will also notify people who have been in close contact with confirmed patients through TraceTogether as soon as possible so that the public can monitor their health and see if there are symptoms of infection to receive guidance and care.

TraceTogether claims that it does not collect or use any type of user location data, nor does it access user contact or address information. It only uses Bluetooth data to establish contact and does not store information about where the contact occurred. In addition, when the two mobile phones exchange information with each other, they communicate with each other by a random ID without involving any personal identity information; the pairing information of the phone number and ID is stored on another server, only when necessary will be read.

The technology behind TraceTogether is the Bluetooth Trace protocol (BlueTrace) developed by the Government Digital Services team at the Government Technology Agency of Singapore.