From privacy concerns to battery issues, Australia’s coronavirus app isn’t without its faults.
The government wants 40 per cent of Australians to download its COVIDSafe program even though privacy safeguards are yet to be passed into law.
Two million people had downloaded the app 24 hours after it was unveiled on Sunday, even though legislation banning police from accessing the data won’t be presented to Parliament for another two weeks.
The government wants 40 per cent of Australians to download its COVIDSafe program even though privacy safeguards are yet to be passed into law. Pictured are Sydney grocery shoppers
From privacy concerns to battery issues, Australia’s coronavirus app isn’t without its faults
At this rate, the government would achieve its goal of 10million users in just five days.
Like the Singapore government’s TraceTogether program it is based on, COVIDSafe uses Bluetooth technology to determine if someone has come into close contact with a coronavirus case.
CovidSafe permissions are LESS invasive than Facebook
The new CovidSafe app which uses bluetooth technology to trace coronavirus contacts with encrypted data has far less invasive permission setting requests than Facebook, which most people have on their phones.
COVIDSAFE ASKS FOR:
* Network access, bluetooth settings
* Access location
* Ignore battery optimisation
* Pair with bluetooth devices
FACEBOOK ASKS FOR:
* Access bluetooth
* Pair with bluetooth devices
* Access location
* Camera access to take pics, video
* Add or modify your calendar events and send email to guests without your knowledge
* Modify your contacts
* Record audio with the microphone and change your audio settings
* Download files without notification
* Connect and disconnect from Wi-Fi and view Wi-Fi connections
* Prevent your phone from sleeping
* Receive data from the internet
Updates to Facebook may automatically add capabilities to what it can do to your phone
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy have promised it will be a major tool to unwind COVID-19 restrictions in coming weeks – and stop a potential future outbreak.
Australians would be more likely to be allowed to leave home for purposes other than buying groceries and medicine, or travelling to work, should close to half the population download it.
Individual app users receive notifications, urging them to get tested, if it detects they have been within 1.5 metres of a disease carrier for more than 15 minutes.
It also saves health officials from having to ask a coronavirus sufferer to list every person they remember coming into contact with, before a public servant then phones each person individually.
The Australian Council for Civil Liberties, unusually for them, favours the app, provided police are barred from accessing the data, as the government has promised.
‘Manual contact tracing is far too slow and far too resource intensive,’ its president Terry O’Gorman told Daily Mail Australia.
‘It does have the potential to aid significantly in controlling this pandemic – we support it but only with significant privacy protections.’
COVIDSafe data is meant to be deleted after 21 days and destroyed once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
Australians who sign on to the app receive a screen message promising their privacy will be protected.
‘Other agencies, including law enforcement, will not be able to access the information unless investigating misuse of the information itself,’ it says.
‘These provisions will be enshrined in legislation when parliament returns in May.’
Parliament, however, isn’t sitting against until May 12, which means COVIDSafe users will be using the app without any legislated privacy protections in place for at least two weeks.
Health Minister Greg Hunt announced an app determination on Anzac Day – a day before telling a media conference the app would use encrypted data and only be available to health officials.
His Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) (Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential) (Emergency Requirements—Public Health Contact Information) Determination 2020 didn’t specifically explain how police or law enforcement officials would be banned from accessing the data.
Instead, a sub-section of this ministerial directive said an official was entitled to collect the data if it was to prosecute someone for breaching the Biosecurity Act of 2015.
Parliament, however, isn’t sitting against until May 12, which means COVIDSafe users will be using the app without any legislated privacy protections in place for at least two weeks
Individual app users receive notifications, urging them to get tested, if it detects they have been within 1.5 metres of a disease carrier for more than 15 minutes
Attorney-General Christian Porter last week promised there would be legislation banning police and law enforcing agencies from accessing the app, addressing a key concern of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties.
His spokesman on Monday, however, conceded the health minister and not him was more likely to bring forward new legislation when Parliament returned from May 12 to 14.
Labor’s health spokesman Chris Bowen is reserving judgement until he sees the legislation, his spokeswoman said.
Nationals MPs Barnaby Joyce, a former deputy prime minister, and Llew O’Brien, a former police officer, have declared they won’t be downloading the app over privacy concerns.
Australians who sign on to the app receive a screen message promising their privacy will be protected. Pictured is a sign-in message
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has declared she won’t be either for the same reason.
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 6,721
New South Wales: 3,004
Western Australia: 549
South Australia: 438
Australian Capital Territory: 106
Northern Territory: 28
TOTAL CASES: 6,721
‘I am not prepared to download the app. I don’t want to,’ she told Sky News on Monday.
‘We are pretty much over the COVID-19.’
Like any Bluetooth app, COVIDSafe could also use a lot of battery power, a key concern during natural disasters with Australia’s far north near the end of its cyclone season.
Australians who use music download apps like Spotify would be familiar with how one program on their phone can drain a lot of battery power – a major issue during blackouts.
Apple iPhone users could compromise the app’s tracing ability if they put it in low power mode in a bid to save battery.
Android phones owners are prompted to disable ‘battery optimisation’, as the app needs devices to be running at full capacity.
The flaws mean a user cannot try and save battery, even if you’re running low.
COVIDSafe users would surely also hope only the intended recipients see their private information.
Facebook app settings (pictured) are far more invasive than CovidSafe
Facebook app settings (pictured) are extensive, invasive, can be changed without you knowing
CovidSafe has relatively few settings, is not invasive and is not changed without your knowledge – unlike Facebook
AUSTRALIA’S COVIDSAFE APP – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
The COVID-19 contact tracing app is called COVIDSafe.
It only works on smartphones and can be downloaded from the Apple or Google app stores.
Use of the app is voluntary.
* To identify people who may have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19 so that they can be advised to take measures to help stop the spread of the disease or get tested.
Registration will require users to input their:
* mobile phone number – so they can be contacted if needed for contact tracing.
* name – so the relevant health officials can confirm they are speaking to the right person, although the Health Minister says you can use a fake name if you want.
* age range – so health officials can prioritise cases for contact tracing.
* postcode – to make sure health officials from the right state and territory are dealing with your case.
COVIDSAFE IN USE
The app will record the following contact data:
* the encrypted user ID.
* date and time of the contact.
* the Bluetooth signal strength of other COVIDSafe users you come into contact with. This will be logged every two hours in the National COVIDSafe data store.
* No location data will be collected at any time.
* Contact data stored on a device will be deleted after 21 days.
* All data stored will be deleted once the pandemic has concluded.
* Personal information collected via COVIDSafe will handled in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988 and the Biosecurity Determination 2020.
* There will be criminal penalties and anyone breaches someone’s privacy.
Source: Australian Government Department of Health