Privacy . . . or accountability? Consider a biblical perspective of the debate surrounding the TraceTogether app and token.

The nationwide distribution of the TraceTogether token and the call for Singaporeans to download the TraceTogether App onto their mobile phones has raised a question in some people’s minds: Will it allow someone to spy on me?

While the authorities have made clear that the token and app are strictly meant for contact tracing purposes, which will help stem the spread of Covid-19 infection, some are worried that the device and app can be used to track where they go and what they do.

Concerns about the invasion of privacy are understandable. In recent years, the unauthorised collection and use of personal information has become a hot issue, and new rules and laws have been enacted to protect privacy. No longer are we expected to give our IC number except for official reasons, and more efforts are being made to protect any personal data collected.

Undoubtedly, Christians may also have these concerns about the TraceTogether app and token. But what other perspectives can we, as believers, consider?

The Bible offers some interesting insights on the concept of community and the sharing of information. What’s striking is that both in Old and New Testament times, following God and walking in His ways were never meant to be individual matters.

Romans 12:5 spells out the foundational truth behind this—“In Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others”—while Hebrews 10:24–25 lays out the practice of this truth: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together . . . but encouraging one another.”

The walk of faith and pursuit of holiness is thus not just an individual affair. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul deals with sin at a community level, urging the church to deal with various issues as a group. While we are accountable to God for behaviour as individuals, we also have a responsibility to help our brothers and sisters in Christ walk in holiness.

Paul also observes that when we walk in a manner that is blameless and upright, our behaviour can inspire and convict others. If you “become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation”, he notes, “you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life” (Philippians 2:15–16).

Some people counter privacy concerns by saying, “If I have nothing to hide, then I don’t have to worry.” But I think that might be seen as trivialising the principle of privacy: even if I’ve done nothing wrong, I might want to keep certain personal things private and confidential simply because they are close to my heart.

Philippians 2:15–16, however, sees this whole issue in a somewhat different light. If we walk blameless and pure, we might want to show others what we have done, so that God (and not us) will be glorified.

And what better way to glorify God than to show that His unlimited love for us will lead us to love others as ourselves? As Philippians 2:3–4 urges us: “In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

One of the biggest sacrifices that Jesus made when He came to earth and died for us was that of His rights—His right to be worshipped and respected, and His right to justice and a fair trial. For love, He was willing to give all this up.

So what does all this mean for contact tracing efforts in Singapore? I believe the Bible offers us a counter-culture perspective of the issue. Some of us will continue to have concerns about our privacy, and this is to be understood. Our desire to keep some things personal and confidential is important.

At the same time, let’s also see the TraceTogether device and app as something that we will participate in for the sake others. Contact tracing will help us as a community to prevent the spread of Covid-19, for the battle against the coronavirus, as we have seen, has to be a collective effort if we want to succeed. Let us not see it as something we must do, but something we want to do—for others’ sake.

Leslie Koh spent more than 15 years as a journalist in The Straits Times before moving to Our Daily Bread Ministries. He’s found moving from bad news to good news most rewarding, and still believes that nothing reaches out to people better than a good, compelling story. He likes eating (a lot), travelling, running, editing, and writing.