The federal government is attempting to allay privacy concerns over a controversial new app, to help track people who come into contact with someone with COVID-19.
The COVIDSafe app is set to go live at 6pm on Sundays and is based on the TraceTogether software in Singapore, which records the Bluetooth connections a phone makes to others so that the user can pass that data on to health authorities if they catch the virus.
The government is hoping for a broader testing regime, and the contact tracing app is more likely to ease the economic shutdown. It is expected to launch on Sunday.
The COVIDSafe app uses Bluetooth to record who you have been in contact with. The government says your data will only be transferred to health authorities if you have tested positive for coronavirus or come into contact with someone whose infection is infected
The federal government has made it clear that law enforcement agencies will not have access to your data. Pictured: A woman in a protective face mask walks her cell phone across Princes Bridge in Melbourne
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the ABC radio program, Macca, Australia All Over, that only health authorities would have access to the data.
“It’s another tool we need to get back to normal as much as possible,” he said.
He said that the contact numbers retrieved from a person’s phone will only be downloaded by a health official when someone gets the corona virus and gives permission.
“No other government agency can use this information, no one in the Commonwealth government, and at the state authorities, only the health official can use it,” he said.
“Not the police, not the rescuers, nowhere else. Only the health official. “
Home Secretary Peter Dutton, recovered from an attack by COVID-19, says it is a more effective approach than checking diaries or trying to remember where they had been.
“The beauty of the app is that it can have a handshake, if you like, with people you’ve been around to find the phone,” he told Sky Sunday Agenda.
He said the privacy issues had been resolved.
“There is absolute protection that is guaranteed around privacy,” he said.
“We all have tons of apps on our phones that collect more data than here.”
Police are pictured on Bondi Beach on April 22 enforcing social distance restrictions
Labor Home Affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said the app could be a great tool, but she wanted people’s personal data to be guaranteed in law.
“Australians will only download the app if they trust their privacy is protected,” she told ABC’s Insiders program.
“We encourage the government to ensure that that privacy protection is built into the app, that the app has legislation around it, meaning that the data cannot be used for any purpose other than contact tracking.
“And when this crisis is over, those authorities will ensure that those data are removed.”
The Australian and International Pilots Association has supported its use, but with effective privacy safeguards.
AIPA President Mark Sedgwick said the airline industry was in crisis and it was critical that the public recognized that Australia should be reopened as soon as possible.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who made an Anzac Day speech at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra in the photo, urges Australians to download the software. “Downloading this app will help save someone’s life,” he said
“With proper safeguards, the COVID-19 tracking app will be an important tool in alleviating non-essential travel restrictions to ensure the survival of the airline industry and Australia’s economic recovery,” Sedgwick said in a statement.
“The government must ensure that the application is used only for medical purposes and does not track the location of the users or store any data.”
The government wants at least 40 percent of the population to volunteer so officials can trace contacts on an industrial scale.
Australian Nobel laureate and immunologist Peter Doherty said he would sign up for this.
“Anything that helps us wrestle COVID-19 is a plus. All privacy was gone when we started using mobile phones, searching online, buying things from Amazon or whatever,” he tweeted Sunday.
New research from the Australia Institute shows that 45 percent of Australians say they download and use the mobile app, while 28 percent say they will not. Another 27 percent were unsure.
How TraceTogether will work
To identify people who may have come in contact with someone who has COVID-19 so that they may be advised to take measures to stop the spread of the disease.
When downloading the app, they are asked for their:
* Mobile phone number – so they can be contacted if necessary for contact tracking.
* Name – so that relevant health officials can confirm that they are speaking to the right person.
* Age category – so that health officials can prioritize cases for contact detection.
* Postcode – to ensure that health officials from the correct state and region handle the case.
COVIDSAFE IN USE
The app registers the following contact details:
* The encrypted user ID
* Date and time of the contact person
* Bluetooth signal strength from other COVIDSafe users they come into contact with.
* This is recorded every two hours in the national COVIDSafe data store.
* Location data is not collected at any time.
* Contact information stored on a device will be deleted after 21 days.
* All stored data will be deleted once the pandemic has ended.
Personal data collected through COVIDSafe will be treated in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988 and the Biosecuirty Determination 2020 and conducted on April 25 by Health Minister Greg Hunt.
(Source – Australian Government Department of Health – www.health.gov.au/covidsafe-privacy-policy)