Bookings cancelled, 200 ActiveSG accounts suspended for suspected bot use and reselling since 2021
SINGAPORE: About 200 ActiveSG accounts have been suspended since 2021 over the suspected use of bots to book sports facilities.
In addition, more than 600 bookings have been cancelled for "on-selling activities", said Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo in a written parliamentary reply on Tuesday (Mar 21).
Mrs Teo was responding to questions from Member of Parliament Jamus Lim (WP-Sengkang) about the abuse of government-linked online booking systems such as for SportSG facilities, and the resale of reservation slots.
He also asked about measures like anti-bot solutions.
Mrs Teo said the government is aware of the use of automated bots to secure slots on websites.
"Some errant users have gone further to use these bots or encourage others to lend their accounts to them so that they can resell the slots for profit," she said, adding that authorities take prompt action to stop them.
Since early 2021, for instance, SportSG has stepped up enforcement measures on-site, requiring the person who booked the slot to be present and be part of the playing party. Otherwise, the booking may be cancelled.
Random checks are done on-site, according to a notice on the ActiveSG app before a person proceeds with a booking.
"In addition, SportSG conducts periodic checks on suspicious booking patterns in the ActiveSG system and on-selling activities across various social media platforms," Mrs Teo said.
"If suspicious booking patterns are found, the accounts will be suspended for a period of three months for the first time and 12 months for repeat violations."
The issue of using bots to book sports facilities came into the spotlight during the COVID-19 pandemic, after Singapore Island Country Club said its online booking system had been compromised with some accounts using bots or scripted programmes to secure popular golfing time slots.
There were also reports of a surge in demand for public badminton court bookings, with some people using bots to beat the system and others resorting to buying slots from resellers on platforms such as Carousell and Facebook.
When CNA did a search on the Carousell platform on Wednesday, there were resale listings for badminton court time slots at Bishan Clubhouse and Hougang Sports Hall.
One of the listings showed a price of S$22 for a two-hour booking at Hougang Sports Hall.
It costs S$3.50 an hour to book a court through the ActiveSG platform, which manages the sports halls.
In her written reply, Mrs Teo said government agencies have put in place technical measures such as CAPTCHA tests and introducing delays between login attempts.
There are also web application firewalls with bot control features to detect and prevent automated bots from launching actions on websites.
She noted, however, that as technology evolves, newer countermeasures will be required.
"These may come at a cost to user experience, including to persons with disabilities or who have intermittent access to the internet," Mrs Teo said.
"The government must strike a balance between introducing frictions to protect against abuse by some and usability for the vast majority."