Secondhand phones flood online platforms after ‘LeaveHomeSafe’ app made mandatory at gov’t venues

Dozens of advertisements on Carousell are peddling “heavily used” smartphones. Screenshots via Carousell
Dozens of advertisements on Carousell are peddling “heavily used” smartphones. Screenshots via Carousell

Online trading platforms are seeing a flood of secondhand phones for sale, a response to the new rule requiring citizens to use the LeaveHomeSafe contact tracing app before entering government venues.

On buy-and-sell app Carousell, dozens of posts from the past 24 hours advertise used smartphones. “Can use ‘LeaveHomeSafe,'” most of them read.

One post from Wednesday afternoon offers “well used” iPhone 5S devices for HK$250 (US$32). Another user is peddling a “heavily used” 16GB smartphone from LG, going for HK$350 (US$45).

Photo: Carousell

The new rule, mandating that citizens scan a QR code with the contact tracing app before entering most government facilities like wet markets, libraries and sports centers, came into force Monday.

Citing concerns about data privacy, some Hongkongers have shied away from downloading LeaveHomeSafe on their phones, instead preferring to use a second device solely to use the app when needed. Authorities have repeatedly reassured the public that it does not pose any security risks.

According to local media, shops on Sham Shui Po’s Ap Liu Street—known for its array of inexpensive electronics—have seen an uptick in sales of used smartphones.

On Monday, police arrested four people suspected of using a fake LeaveHomeSafe app at Immigration Tower in Wan Chai. Reports suggest they were using “BackHomeSafe,” which mimics the app’s green and white interface.

The LeaveHomeSafe app was introduced in November last year as part of the government’s COVID-19 contact tracing efforts.

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