Singaporeans tampering with new COVID tracking tokens amid hate, ridicule

A TraceTogether token receiving hate from the public. Image: Coconuts
A TraceTogether token receiving hate from the public. Image: Coconuts

Singapore’s COVID-19 soon-to-be compulsory tracking devices are getting a lot of hate from residents, some of whom have resorted to tampering with them. 

TraceTogether tokens are being wrapped in aluminium foil or emptied of batteries amid conspiracy theories spreading that such methods can prevent the government from tracking the device’s whereabouts. 

A discussion under the thread Lifehack: to avoid participating mandatory TraceTogether Program that went up on the HardwareZone forum today shared steps on how to disable the token by spoofing its identifying QR code.

“1) Go to the cc to collect the physical token and register yourself with the fixed QR code. 2) Remove the battery cover and remove the battery 3) Use glue to glue the battery cover back 4) Scan your token QR code when entering designated area Bonus) Go Google for photo of TT Token with it’s QR code. Print a sticker of that QR code and stick it onto your token to use,” it said.

TraceTogether developer Smart Nation and Digital Government Group responded today that tampering with the device is a violation of the Computer Misuse Act, which has a maximum penalty of a S$50,000 fine and seven years in jail.

“The TraceTogether and SafeEntry design is so [flawed] that is susceptible to spoofing. Before shoving [shit] down others throat, GovTech need to probably rethink the design of this SafeEntry thingy before forcing it down other’s throat,” the forum post added. 

The vast majority of Singaporeans, or 70% of the population, is expected to either use the pocket-sized hardware token or the government-developed TraceTogether app, before the COVID-19 task force will further relax virus containment measures. 

TraceTogether replaces the usual scanning of identifications cards and SafeEntry QR codes at venues such as shopping malls and cinemas, where it was made compulsory as of yesterday.

But several have been trying to hack the device or gone online to mock it, with some calling it ugly and bulky.

“This one seems like a explosive device. I can’t believe [Singapore] is so outdated in using a hardware like this,” Eugene Ang said.

“I refused to collect it caused it looks like a dog tag. Too many [accessories] to carry around nowadays,” Rebecca Loh said.

Facebook user Angela Tan strayed into tinfoil hat territory to assert the tokens could lead to government sticking microchips into everyone.

“Very soon they will embed microchips as more and more are comfortable with sharing their personal data,” she said

Tuieng Kok Liang, 33, who collected his token Friday, found that it only worked at certain places like shopping malls but not the stores inside.

“Trace together token is good. [It] is only convenient when we enter to shopping mall as there are scanner[s] to scan the trace together token. The negative part is when we enter those shops in shopping mall[s], the shops doesn’t have the scanner to scan as they only [ask] the customer to do the scan,” the aircraft technician told Coconuts today. 

Liang was also refused entry to a McDonald’s outlet in Simei which did not have a scanner and relied on customers scanning the Safe Entry QR codes themselves with their phones.

“I went to MacDonald at [S]imei Station, I showed the guy trace together token, he refuse[d] to let me enter. Because I forgot to bring my phone out as it was just a walking distance for me to the MacDonald. He insisted me to scan using the QR code,” he added.

Because of its inaccessibility in areas, he now brings both his phone and token out and switches between either to enter locations. He stopped using the app version, which was frequently “draining” the phone battery.

Since its launch in March, the Bluetooth-powered COVID tracing and alert system has concerned citizens about their privacy. It has since been refuted that the hardware uses GPS or internet connectivity.

Singapore began sending out TraceTogether tokens to more than 400,000 people last month. 

Other stories you should check out:

Singapore moviegoers must use COVID app, tracking device before entering

Singapore won’t relax COVID-19 measures or vaccinate until tracking widely adopted

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