SINGAPORE: Josephine Teo, The Minister for Communications and Information (MCI), in a recent parliamentary debate, voiced words of criticism over the label of “crisis of confidence” by Members of Parliament from Workers’ Party regarding the public growing loss of trust in the safety of digital space.
On 10 January, Workers’ Party Chairman Sylvia Lim, MP for Aljuned GRC, voiced her concerns about the crisis of public confidence over digital transactions in a motion debated in the Singapore Parliament.
She pointed out that even previously trusted savings avenues, like CPF funds and fixed deposits, are now vulnerable to scams and malware, contributing to this crisis of trust.
Although three banks have introduced “money lock” options to safeguard customer funds against cyber threats, Ms Lim noted that this move reflects an acknowledgement of the digital sphere’s inherent vulnerabilities.
“I would not like to exaggerate the situation, but I would say that we are moving towards a crisis of confidence in digital banking, without stronger intervention by government regulators.”
While acknowledging the importance of a ‘whole of nation’ approach to foster trust in the digital sphere by creating an inclusive and secure digital society, she emphasized the necessity for government and businesses to spearhead this initiative.
Ms Lim underscored the pressing need for robust measures to rebuild trust in the digital domain, specifically targeting the combat against evolving scams and the regulation of AI advancements.
Teo challenges ‘crisis of confidence’ label
Responding to comments by Ms Lim and her fellow MPs from the Workers’ Party, Ms Josephine Teo, Minister for Communication and Information, called on MPs not to spread labels on issues.
Stressing that fighting scams is “thankless work”, Ms Teo likened WP members to bystanders watching firefighters put out a fire, “pontificating” and telling the firefighters what they should do.
“then when they do manage to put out some fires with great effort, and getting ready to fight the next fire because they know it’s coming, then the very same bystanders say: ‘thank goodness I said that.'”
Addressing public concern, not creating panic: Ms Lim
Ms Lim swiftly addressed Ms Teo’s allegation, emphasising that her speech did not intend to politicize the issue or to create panic, but rather she intended to reflect what she saw as the current sentiment of significant sections of the public.
She further laid out reasons to reflect on the public sentiment on declining trust toward online space.
She cited the IMDA’s statistics showing that 99% of persons aged 60 and above are worried about becoming scam victims.
“99%, that’s quite almost a hundred per cent of people in this age group are worried about becoming scam victims, ” she reminded.
She further highlighted other MPs also sharing that there are residents who ignore official communications because they can’t tell whether these are authentically from the government or it’s a scammed message.
Ms Lim also highlighted feedback from members of the public who expressed a desire to take their accounts offline, and the establishment of a Task Force on the resilience and security of Digital Infrastructure and services, in which she believed that its purpose was actually to oversee matters of public confidence.
“I would argue that there is a serious issue with public confidence, and I think it is borne out by these factors that I’ve mentioned, ” nevertheless, Ms Lim acknowledged the work done by the agencies is a big task and a 24/7 effort.
In response, Ms Teo did not address the point about the statistics that 99% of persons aged 60 and above are worried about becoming scam victims.
Instead, Ms Teo went on to say, ‘Whatever is posted on social media should benefit people who are not able to take part in this discussion. ”
“I hope that messages being put out by MPs don’t simply use very sensational or glaring headlines.’
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