Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many organizations and governments have launched their own COVID-19 contact tracing applications to decrease the spread of the virus.
However, the issue of privacy within these apps has been a big concern and has also left many to question if it is effective at all. Now, despite criticism when it comes to their approach to privacy, the Australian government has rolled out its very own tracing app called COVIDSafe.
Australia launches coronavirus contact tracing app, but it's filled with privacy issues
This new voluntary software is based on Singapore's TraceTogether and it uses a combined mix of stored contact data and Bluetooth technology on both the servers and the application to help inform people if they have been in close contact with someone infected with the coronavirus.
The Australian government has also promised that the new app does not collect location pins and that they only share data with health officials after the person who has been infected gives consent. However, there are still some other concerns that the app might still share other data.
The data includes postcodes, phone numbers, and names. This makes it theoretically possible for hackers to access these details. People have been asking how Australia is planning to handle and enforce its data protection policies.
What is COVIDSafe and how does it work?
According to Australia's Department of Health, "The COVIDSafe app helps find close contacts of COVID-19 cases. The app helps state and territory health officials to quickly contact people who may have been exposed to COVID-19. The COVIDSafe app speeds up the current manual process of finding people who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19."
It adds, "This means you'll be contacted more quickly if you are at risk. This reduces the chances of you passing on the virus to your family, friends, and other people in the community."
When users download the application, they will be required to provide details such as their postcode, mobile number, and names. They will then receive an SMS confirming that they have completed the installation. The system then creates a unique encrypted code just for the user.
They also added that "COVIDSafe recognizes other devices with the COVIDSafe app installed and Bluetooth enabled. When the app recognizes another user, it notes the date, time, distance, and duration of the contact and the other user's reference code. The COVIDSafe app does not collect your location. To be effective, you should have the COVIDSafe app running as you go about your daily business and come into contact with people. Users will receive daily notifications to ensure the COVIDSafe app is running."
After the pandemic, all users will then be prompted to delete the COVIDSafe application from their devices, and this will also delete and destroy all information in the storage system.