Concerns remain over technical shortfalls of COVIDSafe app

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The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) says that it continues to have concerns about the technical shortfalls of the government’s COVIDSafe app and also pointed out issues with public education on its use.

ACCAN has highlighted a need for clear, easy to understand education about privacy aspects of the app and how it operates.

ACCAN chief executive Teresa Corbin said the government needed to do more to combat misinformation about what the app was actually able to achieve.

“There’s quite a bit of confusion amongst some consumers as to what the app does,” Ms Corbin explained.

“We’ve heard cases where older Australians, in particular, are concerned that without the COVIDSafe app, they’re missing out on some sort of personal protection from COVID-19.

“We need to make sure that any public messaging focuses on the app’s contribution to community safety, rather than individual safety.”

The YourLifeChoices post-pandemic survey, which attracted over 4500 responses, showed a mixed reaction to downloading the government’s app.

There were 2118 respondents who said they had already downloaded the app, compared to 1611 who had not downloaded the app.

While those numbers suggest a strong take-up, there were 845 people that chose to skip the questions, suggesting a much higher degree of scepticism about data protection and the surveillance aspects of the app.

Ms Corbin, though, welcomed the passage of the Privacy Amendment (Public Health Contact Information) Bill 2020 last week, explaining that it was a key step to ensuring appropriate safeguards are in place to protect the privacy of Australians using the COVIDSafe app.

Ms Corbin said that she was pleased that the legislation was amended to tackle a number of concerns raised by ACCAN and other consumer groups across the fields of health, technology, privacy, human rights, digital inclusion, communications and community interests.

“We welcome the new transparency and accountability measures that have been incorporated into the bill, such as a requirement for the minister for health to produce a report to parliament on the operation and effectiveness of the COVIDSafe app, and an expanded oversight role for the Australian information commissioner and privacy commissioner,” Ms Corbin said.

“We know that for vulnerable groups, such as survivors of domestic violence, there is anxiety about whether someone could deduce who their close contacts are and when and for how long they have visited them.”

Have you downloaded the COVIDSafe app? What are your concerns?

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Written by Ben

103 Comments

Total Comments: 103
  1. 0
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    I haven’t downloaded the app because my phone only has Android 5.5 which is inadequate for the app. I question the point in releasing an app which many older people in particular who don’t need the latest phones cannot use. I also question the effectiveness of the need to be within 1.5m of an infected person for 15 minutes as the vast majority of situations that I foresee would be outside of those parameters.

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      The distance /time has been chosen because that’s when the virus can spread, you’re not going to catch anything walking past each other but sitting in a cafe for 30 minutes is where the chances are far higher, same as on public transport, in church waiting at the doctor, all those lengthy activities.

      The app is a replacement for the contact tracing that’s currently done now, they interview you and ask where you’ve been in the last two weeks and you’d say at ABC cafe, doctors waiting room, etc. They then contact those places to advise them your’re a positive case and others who were near you maybe found and tested.

      In regards to the phone’s capability, well that’s completely normal, most apps are only written for recent phones.

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      Greg,
      We don’t have public transport in our area , the last time I went on a bus was two years ago in Austria. Our doctor’s and dentist’s surgeries have seats 2m apart and they call to report any delay to keep the waiting rooms clear. Surgeries anyway have signs that tell you to switch your phone off. Our local outdoor cafe tables are further apart. The sporting club I belong to tells members to stay in their cars until a place is available when they will call. I am not a moron as you previously accused me and others but I don’t live in the Singaporian conditions for which this app was designed. Given the low level of infection in Australia and the volume of aerosol from just one infected sneeze a 30 second contact up to 2m would be more appropriate. I wll be interested to hear just how many infected contacts this app detects, my bet is not many.

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      I would have been quite happy to download the app, but my phone says “no”. And I don’t intend to throw away a perfectly good smartphone just so I can spend hundreds of dollars on a new one with the rifgt operating system.

    • 0
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      I meant right, of course.

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      Well if you’ve visited any restaurants or cafes they now get you to either fill out of covid-19 form which can be used for tracing or use a QR code that records your information. There’s no way anyone who is out and about will not be traced whether you want it or not.

    • 0
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      Jenny, you don’t have to spend hundreds for a new one and still have your phone replaced every 1 or 2 years depending on which payment contract you are able to sign up for!
      Much better and you get lots of good internet deals options as well with it!
      No need to stick to a vintage model!

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      You just don’t get it do you.

      The app is for GOING FORWARD into the weeks/months ahead when restrictions will be lessened, long term until a vaccine becomes available. All the things you are talking about is how they are NOW and in some places they don’t have seats 2 metres apart and some people do use public transport. But again the selfishness in you comes out, me, me, me, that’s all that matters.

      The app is for CONTACT TRACING, it’s being done now manually, the app is more efficient, more thorough. No wonder I called you a moron, you fit the name well.

  2. 0
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    “Have you downloaded the COVIDSafe app? What are your concerns?”

    No, unable to download the app because my smart phone is not as smart as the government thinks it is. It has an operating system of 5.1.1 which is below the 6 needed to accept the app. I would use it if I could but my ‘phone works for me and I’m not one who updates just because there is a new one on the market.

    I have no concerns with the app and I disagree that there has been insufficient information by government. My understanding is that there are no privacy concerns as the app doesn’t identify whose ‘phone is near another with the app nor does it identify the place where the incident is happening. Any other information has been because of people who appear to be paranoid about anything the government does with technology. These people are easily identifiable as they invariably wear cooking foil caps to stop the government reading their thoughts.

  3. 0
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    I too cannot download the app because my iOS is not as up to date as the most recent products. A phone call to the Help Line for downloading the app was unable to give me any assistance or advise and just said “thank you for trying”. It would be interesting to know how many people have issues compared to how many have actually downloaded the app.

  4. 0
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    If you believe this app is secure you will also believe the government hasnt had various databases hacked and other data bases are also secure. This app is another “furphy ‘ foisted on the public which I see as of being no use at all in its intended purpose!

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      Keep your tinfoil hat on and you will be okay like me. I checked on Facebook and Twitter and so I am concerned about privacy.

    • 0
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      i agree pedro the swift.
      how about an app to track pedophiles and murderers etc

    • 0
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      You better go hide in a cave, don’t use a phone, don’t use a PC. This virus was brought about to allow 5G in, Bill Gates will make a motsa of of the vaccine, the world is flat and the government is interested in all your movements.

      Bloody hell, you paranoid people are funny, the only data the app has is your phone number, wow such an important and private item. It can’t trace you, you don’t need GPS turned on so it’s not possible. Phones can’t use triangulation themselves BUT the gov can if need be, so they already can find out where you are IF THEY WANTED, and FFS WHY would they be interested in where you are, 25 million people, what makes YOU so special.

      “I see as of being no use at all in its intended purpose!”

      Well you obviously do not understand what the app does, it’s intended purpose is to trace positive cases to see who they have been near in the last 14 days. This tracing has been going on since the first cases were found, a positive case is asked where they have been in the last 14 days, such as doctors waiting room or the ABC Cafe, then contact tracing happens to try to find the people who were in those places too and get them tested.

      All this app does is automates that process, that’s it, so is very useful in it’s intended purpose.

  5. 0
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    I see the few comments so far all state they can’t download the app, I am in the same boat, although I did download the app onto my cheap Malaysian phone, but it wouldn’t download onto my wife’s more expensive phone from Vodafone which we purchased when we had to go onto 3G, I have no concerns with privacy, I went to the ACCAN site to see what their concerns are and viewed the letter they had sent to the government regarding those concerns, most of the concerns have already been covered by the legislation in place in both State and Federal legislation. Some of the concerns do relate to access to the app on some phones, and in remote areas, also women’s groups that deal with domestic violence, the indigenous community and other at risk groups, their solution is to provide phones to those at risk groups and to provide more reliable services in remote areas and to reduce costs for internet services, all of these suggestions are commendable, but I don’t know if they are practical, Australia is such a vast country and the cost to provide services to remote areas must be difficult if not impossible in some areas, maybe satellite services might be the answer but I don’t know how reliable they are.

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    I have no intention of downloading the COVID19 app as I have a great mistrust in govts of any political persuasion. Same goes for my e health record. Call me suspicious, but I am yet to be convinced as to its security from hackers etc & whether once a vaccine is found whether govts will delete your COVID19 app?BTW. Why are some restaurants asking people when dining in to provide their details (tracking purposes I assume) if these people have downloaded the app?

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      Maybe you need a lesson on how to delete apps.

    • 0
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      David YOU delete apps NOT the gov, Haha.

      Your comment just proves your ignorance of technology and how it can help you and others.

      What are hackers going to get from the app, all it has is your phone number. Name, birth range postcode are required but can be made up, the phone number is the ONLY item required to be able to get a SMS message if need be.

      Yes restaurants want contact details for contact tracing and that’s all this app does, it automates the CURRENT process of contact tracing that has been happening for over two months now. I would assume that they are getting these details because fools like you haven’t downloaded the app.

  7. 0
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    No, I haven’t downloaded the app nor will I as it stands. Here are my obvious reasons.

    1. I have an Iphone 5 SE, so to start with, its battery capacity when fully charged I would guess is 80% of original capacity.
    Using Bluetooth 24 hours per day, would drain it to zero in about 12 hours or less. To me that’s bullshit! period.

    2. I don’t mingle with other people or socialize except with close family relatives. For me to spend 15 minutes with other people at close quarters, and I would guess less than 1.5 metres apart, say on public transport would be so rare, I wouldn’t consider it anyway.

    3. Does the app start emitting warning signals as soon as it detects another case nearby? Does it tell me that a person is infected? What do I do on the bus or train or an escalator in shopping centers or lifts in multistory buildings, kick the offending person, or throttle him/her for bringing the Covid 19 virus into range? Or do I carry a plastic shield and ram it in the other person’s face? As far as I know, it doesn’t do any of these things.

    Someone please explain if this doesn’t make the app totally useless as a warning device except to accumulate personal data and be advised 3-4 days later you have been in touch with a C19 carrier days before and you might have been infected. What does this do to your anxiety level? I know this would scare the shit out of me for a week till I got tested and hopefully came out negative. If I came out positive, “whoopee” I’m slowly moving up the queue to go to hopefully God!

    If this is the case, how does the app protect me personally? It doesn’t. Bullshit hype from the government to pretend they’re doing something. God, 6 million Australians downloaded the app? makes me wonder at least how many people think these impositions through.

    How about an app that monitors my body temperature and transmits this to any Bluetooth device nearby, which then sounds warning signals to all other Bluetooth devices within range and also to some government data agency nearby. Then I would be made aware, that person next to me is safe or not to be near. I think people assume this is what the app does. It doesn’t.

    Also, I use my Iphone to talk to people, not for Facebook , or other time wasting messages back and forth. Can’r people see, mobiles are controlling our lives?

    • 0
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      My God, all the information you are asking about is freely available online to read. Obviously you have NO IDEA how this app works, yet you won’t download it because blah, blah, blah. YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW IT WORKS, FFS, if you knew maybe you would use it.

      The app IS NOT to warn you about people nearby who maybe positive.

      The app is purely to AUTOMATE what currently happens when contact tracing.

      Currently if you test positive the health dept interviews you and asks where you have been over the last 14 days, you may have been in a doctors waiting room or the number 452 bus from A to B. The health dept tries to trace who you may have been in contact with in that waiting room or that bus.

      The app records in encrypted code when you have been near another app enabled phone for 15 mins or more and within around 1.5 metres. It doesn’t know where on this Earth you were it only knows you were near phone ABGFGTRFGF.

      Anyone who tests positive in the future will be asked to upload their contact details ie the encrypted codes of the people who they were near for those times/distances, than all those people get an SMS to say they should be tested as they may have been infected.

      That’s it, that’s all the app does, it purely replaces what happens currently but is more accurate and the other people can be more easily contacted. You don’t get an alert when you are near the person, you get nothing, it happens in the background and you can’t access the information, you’d never know until you get the SMS.

      And your whinge about Bluetooth is crap – turn on the Bluetooth when you go out and leave it off otherwise. On my phone I haven’t noticed any reduction in battery life, it’s very low powered Bluetooth and makes no difference.

    • 0
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      Hey JoJozep use your brains man they don’t advise you of any illness on the day, you always have to wait for the results of tests maybe weeks in some cases. At least this app will alert you and with any sort of luck you maybe cleared after you have been tested.

    • 0
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      Great commenting JoJoZep, and I agree, it is a waste of money and effort, I too don’t get close enough to people, after all we are being told to keep our distance.

    • 0
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      I ask everyone this: Who has EVER read the Terms & Conditions of ANYTHING in full?
      No-one, because they’re designed to make you stop reading by being deliberately difficult to understand, use theme-specific jargon and, to the lay person, they continually seem to repeat themselves.
      The ONLY people who might read them in full are those with the legal and techno knowledge, the patience of Job and hours of time on their hands. Anyone on this site?

      Greg, I believe you are being insulting with your “blah, blah, blah…” comment. It is everyone’s right to be suspicious of government departments, especially in light of Robodebt and that ruthless people like Peter Dutton are federal Ministers. What have these ones ever done to engender trust in them?

      I am not one for so-called conspiracy theories but that doesn’t mean there aren’t very good reasons to question the status quo. The fake news of Trump, Newscorp, etc., only add to the confusion and mistrust for intelligent people who are genuinely trying to seek the truth. Ironically perhaps, Flat Earth believers are predominantly pro-Trump.

  8. 0
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    I’d like it to be confirmed that all people in Australia who have tested positive to the covid-19 virus have been made/compulsory to download and keep the app on their phones, otherwise having the app on my phone will not detect if I have been close to an infected person.

    • 0
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      Ideally everyone should download it BEFORE being positive, unfortunately too many pigheaded, ignorant, selfish people won’t.

      The app replaces what currently happens in a manual process by the health dept, so currently you may be near an infected person and not know, same with the app but at least if lots of people have the app a lot more contact tracing can happen.

  9. 0
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    I don’t get the COVID—Safe APP. The app warns if you were in contact with a person who tested positive. If someone tested positive back in March, why should you care? They’re no longer contagious.

    When a person tests positive, they isolate for 14 days to not spread the virus. Getting close to them would near-on impossible.

    If a psychopath tested positive yesterday, why would they download the app—they’re a psychopath? Even if they had the app, a psychopath would delete it because they’re foaming at the mouth and want to kill as many as possible.

    Each morning without fail, I get a COVID-Safe APP alerting me to keep the app open (almost as alarming as a message from MyGov warning you have communications!) If you got warned about a positive contact, you’d ignore it because there’s only so many COVID-Safe APP warnings anyone can handle.

    I downloaded the app. I keep it open. But I still don’t get it.

    • 0
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      It’s great you downloaded the app, here’s how it works.

      Currently if a person is tested positive they are interviewed by the heath dept to find out where they been in the last two weeks, they see that you may have been on a bus, train, doctors waiting room, cafe, etc, they then try to contact those places and try to contact the people who may have been near you in those places.

      All the app does is automates that entire process, remember the app is for going forward as more things open back up, so at a cafe, church, on a bus, train, etc. If there are two or more phones with the app near each other for 15 mins or more each phone keeps an encrypted code of the meeting, that stays on the phone for 21 days and then is deleted. The app doesn’t know where on this Earth you are only that you were near another app enabled phone.

      Now when a person is tested positive that person sends their contact information (those encrypted codes) to the health department who then sends an SMS to each person who was near that newly tested positive case and requested that they get tested also.

      That’s it, that’s all it does, automate the current process.

      Not everyone has symptoms or if they do they may walk around for a few days until tested, that’s why the app looks at 14 days prior.

      Not sure why you get warnings everyday, I don’t, never, I only turn on Bluetooth when going out and turn it off at home but never have had a warning.

    • 0
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      Veritas there are a whole lot of frightened people out there. If this app gives the people the confidence to go back to work then its worth it.
      I have downloaded the app knowing I am very unlikely to be in a situation where I should be concerned. However if this app saves our children from a terrible economic depression then I am all for it.

    • 0
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      Thanks, Greg for the explanation and it makes sense. My comment was a somewhat tongue-in-cheek and light-hearted look at the app in the wrong hands. I have the covid-safe app open 24 hours a day and it does not drain the battery, not that I’ve observed anyway. I wandered through the Redcliffe markets on Sunday. It was a challenge to keep 1.5 metres distant. I’d like to think the app offers some assurance as we get back to normal. The download rate appears to have stalled around the 5 million–short of the 10 million to make it viable. The message I get each day is to advise keeping the app running in the background and not switch is off.

  10. 0
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    Yes Skeeta, A soon as they tell you (several days later) that you were next to an infected person, wouldn’t you react? wouldn’t your anxiety levels and blood pressure shoot through the roof, wouldn’t this be enough to trigger a mental stroke? That’s what happens to me.

    Wouldn’t it be better if you were informed within seconds an infected person has moved into your circle so you could take evasive action. What’s the point of catching the virus to be told several days later or symptoms appear to confirm your infection. DOOH!

    The point is, the app is useless to the person using it. Very clever marketing ploy by Apple by the way.

    • 0
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      What the hell has Apple got to do with it???

    • 0
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      Yes, even more insidious than Apple (correctly as you say, Greg, has nothing to do with the COVID app), is Amazon, who are hosting the iCloud for the COVID app in Australia.

      Amazon is the reason why I won’t download the app. I do not trust Amazon. Presently, in the USA, Amazon are sacking workers who have raised COVID-safety issues in their workplace. The irony is not lost on me. Here, Amazon is profiting from the iCloud app in Australia (our taxes are paying their bill), while Amazon sacks workers who are raising concerns about their lack of protection from COVID at Amazon workplaces.

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