Throw away your TraceTogether token? It may be an offence, even when pandemic comes to an end

Those convicted can be fined up to $2,000, or jailed for up to three years. ST PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEOW

SINGAPORE - Covid-19 measures have been broadly eased since April 26, such that SafeEntry check-ins are not needed at most places. But the public should not throw away the TraceTogether tokens used to check in at venues.

Similarly, lawyers say businesses should not dispose of the SafeEntry Gateway boxes used to help check in people who tap their TraceTogether tokens or apps on the boxes.

The tokens and boxes are government properties so throwing them away could be, for now, an offence.

The Government Technology Agency has advised the public and businesses to retain the tokens and boxes, so that contact tracing and vaccination-related checks can be quickly stepped up if a new Covid-19 variant of concern emerges.

There is a risk that certain laws may arguably be breached if the tokens or boxes are junked, said Mr Desmond Chew, a partner at law firm Dentons Rodyk's intellectual property and technology practice group.

For example, individuals or businesses could run foul of the Penal Code if they intentionally caused "wrongful loss" to the Government by doing so, he added. If found guilty, they could be jailed for up to two years, fined or both.

The tokens and boxes were distributed for free by the authorities in most cases.

If individuals or businesses accidentally throw away the hardware, they may still violate the Vandalism Act for damaging or destroying public properties. Those convicted can be fined up to $2,000, or jailed for up to three years.

Similar penalties may apply if the tokens or boxes are tampered with, modified or damaged, said Mr Chew.

In addition, a person may also be guilty of unauthorised modification of computer material under the Computer Misuse Act. The potential penalties are a fine not exceeding $10,000, a jail term of up to three years, or both.

If there is damage to the items caused by illegal modification, the potential penalties are more severe - the offender may be fined up to $50,000, jailed for up to seven years, or both.

For people who have lost their tokens, the devices need to be replaced. Replacing a token for the first time it is lost is free, but costs $9 for each subsequent replacement. 

This can be done at TraceTogether vending machines or selected community centres - visit for details.

But should individuals or businesses tell the Government that they lost the tokens or boxes when they had actually thrown them away or recycled them, they could be accused of giving false information to a public servant.

For individuals, the potential penalties are a jail term of up to six months, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. For businesses, they can be fined up to $10,000.

And even when the pandemic is officially over, Mr Joshua Tong, a senior associate at law firm Kalco Law, said the same issues with throwing and damaging the tokens and boxes may still arise because they are government properties.

"But I would think that at that point, there will be clear instructions on how these items will be dealt with," he added, noting that the safest thing to do is to hold on to the tokens and boxes for now.

Whether the Government will actually take any action against people or businesses who throw away or damage the tokens and boxes is unclear, said Mr Chew.

While the Government can do so, it is also likely to consider the need to put in place processes to allow individuals and businesses to return the items, he added.

"There needs to be greater clarity as to what businesses and individuals should do if they are to stop using the SafeEntry Gateway boxes and TraceTogether tokens," added Mr Chew. "Otherwise, not only is there a potential breach of the various laws, but also lack of clarity on how to deal with potential electronic waste."

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