Leading the double life
Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam revealed during his Ministry’s Committee of Supply debate in Parliament yesterday (6 Apr) that law enforcement agencies here will begin using data from public transport video cameras and the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system to track travel patterns of suspicious individuals. This is in efforts to further counter terrorism as well as to boost the Home Team’s intelligence and investigation capabilities.
But why the ERP?
You must be wondering, why the ERP system, out of everything else?
And how the heck are they supposed to fight terrorism?!
So each ERP gantry consists of cameras that are used to capture (if necessary) the rear license plates of vehicle as they pass by. These cameras allow the authorities to identify the drivers in situations of insufficient funds in the stored payment card or an absent stored value card. A letter demanding payment is sent out to the registered owner of the vehicle caught on camera not paying the toll.
In short, they are like CCTVs too, but even better because they are able to capture quick movement.
The use of more CCTVs and video analytics would help the Home Team to respond quickly and solve crimes, said security expert Toby Koh, group managing director of Ademco Security Group.
On top of that, more police cameras in areas of high human traffic in the heartlands, studies of stringent measures for buildings and major events, and the formation of a dedicated police emergency response teams to react swiftly to attacks will be rolled out, as previously mentioned by Mr Shanmugam a few weeks ago.
A new national programme called SG Secure will be also phased out to organise and train people to protect society from a terror attack and ensure that multiracial, multi-religious harmony is upheld.
Thats right, eyes everywhere. Your every move is being watched. There’s no escaping now…
So what are the cons of such a seemingly foolproof plan?
Initially, the government agreed that such data will not be used but due to “changed circumstances”, it would mean the usage of some of the data.
And of course the main fear would be misuse of data.
Mr Shanmugam said the data would be used for investigations after an incident, analysis and prediction before an incident, and also said that individuals who do misuse the data would be dealt with by the law.
Also, CCTVs are generally a post-event tool and not a prevention tool, so active prevention strategies such as a robust security plan with intrusion detection and access control by property owners would still be needed, reminded Mr Koh.
Is it worth the risk?
However the risk of abuse should not prevent the authorities from tracking data as it would expose the country to an attack and deprive it of tools for investigation.
While there is a possibility of abuse, the extra pairs of eyes in an investigation will definitely come in handy. And we’ll never know if we never try right? With Singapore being a small country with a rather small talent pool and defence resources, we need to make the most out of whatever we have.
Do us proud little ERP spies!! <3
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Featured image via AsiaOneTransport