Free mask for personal data, anyone?

Razer’s offer to give five million masks to Singaporeans and Singapore residents to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic is nothing to be scoffed at. It’s a great act of charity from a company which makes Singapore its Southeast Asia headquarters.

Masks are in such hot demand now and the gaming device maker did its bit by quickly turning some of its manufacturing facilities into mask production lines.

“With our mask production line in Singapore fully up and running – I am excited to announce the #ForSingaporeansBySingaporeans initiative where we will be giving out 1 mask to each Singaporean aged 16 and above. We estimate up to 5M masks will be distributed through this effort,” wrote Min-Liang Tan, CEO of Razer in a Facebook post.

The masks will be distributed via a network of 20 vending machines across Singapore.

The catch lies in the mechanics of the mask collection. To get a free mask, one must first register with Razer Pay. This entails downloading the app and providing personal details, plus going through a verification process that requires submitting the scan of one’s identity card. A virtual coupon will be issued for redemption of mask after verification.

Sounds like a lot of information to be given away just for one free mask.

“I see some negativity about how we require verification via Razer Pay – but if you think about it – this is the only way we’ll be able to ensure there’s no free for all on the masks. We aren’t the government and have no access to the Identity Cards etc. We’re funding this completely ourselves and would like to ensure there’s no fraud,” wrote Tan.

It is understandable that there should be a checking system in place to ensure that the donations are not abused.

But it does make the initiative feel like a marketing campaign with Razer seizing the opportunity to onboard practically an entire nation to its payment platform, and collecting sensitive data in the process.

The donation is highly commendable but one wonders if the privacy tradeoff is worth the price of a mask.