Throw away TraceTogether token? It may be an offence, even when pandemic is over
Covid-19 measures have been broadly eased since April 26 such that SafeEntry check-ins are no longer 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 property so throwing them away could, for now, be 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 fall foul of the Penal Code if they intentionally cause "wrongful loss" to the Government by doing so, he said. 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 property. 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.
And even when the pandemic is officially over, said Mr Joshua Tong, a senior associate at law firm Kalco Law, the same issues with throwing away or damaging the tokens and boxes may still arise because they are government property.
"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.
Mr Chew said greater clarity is needed on what businesses and individuals should do if they are to stop using the boxes and tokens.
"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."