TraceTogether: Singaporeans Acting Based On Privacy Concerns Face Potential Jail Time

In a backpedaling move, PAP Minister Vivian Balakrishnan announced the mandatory use of TraceTogether app or token before residents can enter popular venues. He said having a 70% population take up rate of TraceTogether is one of the requirements before Singapore can move into Phase 3. This sudden announcement about TraceTogether sparked a rush of people heading down to collection points to take their TraceTogether tokens.

Forcing the use of TraceTogether on the population sparked another round of suspicion and fears of privacy concerns through government surveillance. Some netizens concerned about protecting their privacy from the prying eyes of the government have allegedly taken steps to modify their TraceTogether tokens. Based on their online discussions, some have tried methods like removing the battery or swapping the token’s QR code with another device.

However the government is not amused by these acts of tampering. The state media recently interviewed a lawyer who said people caught tampering with their devices are liable for jail under Singapore’s wide array of laws. A lawyer Joshua Tong from Kalco Law explained those caught for causing physical damage or alterations to TraceTogether tokens may be committing an offence of mischief simpliciter. This particular offence carries a fine and/or a jail term of up to two years.

There is another offence which can lead to a jail term of up to 10 years and/or a fine if a person is found to have committed a mischievous act which disrupts a public health service. Further laws like the Computer Misuse Act state that those who gain unauthorised access to computer material face a fine up to $5,000 and/or a jail term of up to two years. Then those caught for making unauthorised modifications to computer material can be fined up to $10,000 and/or a jail term up to three years.

Unfortunately with the threat of fines and jail terms, it seems the authorities can be capable of coming down hard on Singaporeans who are acting based on concerns about state surveillance.

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