More than one million Australians have downloaded a new government smartphone app created to make coronavirus contact tracing easier despite concerns about how authorities might use their data.
Using bluetooth technology, COVIDSafe keeps a list of other users you've been within 1.5m of for more than 15 minutes. "When the app recognises another user, it notes the date, time, distance and duration of the contact and the other user's reference code".
As with any app that collects your personal details and whereabouts, it's definitely important to understand your privacy rights with COVIDSafe, and you're right to be cautious here.
When asked how many people need to download the app for it to be successful, Hunt said "there is no magic number".
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said downloading the app was not mandatory, and instead has likened it to civic duty.
"The more Australians who download the app the safer we will all be and the more quickly we can begin to ease restrictions", she said in a statement.
"We are winning, but we have not yet won", Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said at a televised briefing announcing the mobile app's launch. To be effective, you should have the COVIDSafe app running as you go about your daily business and come into contact with people.
If a user subsequently tests positive to COVID-19, they have the option to notify health authorities. Australia has reported 6,714 coronavirus cases, with 83 deaths.
"It is a big Team Australia moment... we really need every Australian to download it and to run it", he said.
The COVIDSafe app was launched Sunday in an effort to slow the spread of the virus in the country.
A few countries, including South Korea and Israel, are using high-tech methods of contact tracing which involves tracking peoples' location via phone networks, though such centralized, surveillance-based approaches are viewed as invasive and unacceptable in many countries.
The source code for the app is now not available publicly, although the government has said it will be released subject to consultation with the Australian Signals Directorate's Australian Cyber Security Centre.
Only health workers can access the off-device data and even then only after initial opt-in and a second request for permission after a positive test.
The associate professor in commercial law at Auckland University said a similar app was said to have had a low uptake in Singapore, so the government needed to be very clear about its objective and reassure the public about the app's security.
"I'm sick of not playing sport, sick of not watching sport, just - download the freaking app, people".
"Once the coronavirus pandemic is over, and Australia no longer needs the app, the app and the information on it will be deleted permanently".
Your data will reportedly also be deleted if you uninstall the CovidSafe from your device or if you "upload your contact data to the data store".
"We're not making it a precondition that we get a certain number of Victorians participating using this app as a precursor before we would consider the easing of any restrictions in Victoria", she said.
That said, while the app certainly has its drawbacks, it appears to be secure and seems to take users' privacy into consideration.
"We had hoped that perhaps we would get to the million mark within five days and we were lucky to get there within five hours", Mr Hunt said.
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