Health department admits COVIDSafe app not yet operational

The app, touted as key to navigating our lockdown release, goes ‘live’ next week.

COVIDSafe app not yet working

The contentious COVIDSafe app, downloaded by four million Australians, is not yet being used by health officials.

"The rules on privacy are being finalised, along with final IT testing," a Department of Health spokesman told the ABC on Sunday.

"The system will be operational next week ahead of the decision on possible easing of restrictions."

Deputy chief medical officer Professor Michael Kidd said the app had been implemented very quickly and was still being finalised.

"What we're doing is making sure that the operations are going to work appropriately and safely, but also (making) sure that the people in the contact-tracing facilities in the states and territories are trained on how to use the app, and how to use it appropriately."

Prof. Kidd said the app was currently logging contacts, but that information was not yet being accessed by officials.

"There's a delay from now until when the contact tracer in the state or territory where you are based has activated the system."

He emphasised the app would be gathering relevant details of contacts of users.

Meanwhile, Diabetes Australia has advised the Department of Health that the COVIDSafe app might affect a crucial app downloaded by many diabetics. On Sunday, it released a statement: “***Important information for CGM Users***

“No need to panic!

“We have received reports from a number of people with diabetes who have downloaded the Australian government COVIDSafe app to their smartphone that they have experienced connection problems with their continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) apps.

“We have advised the Department of Health that there may be an issue.

“If you have downloaded the COVIDSafe app and use a smartphone app with your CGM, you may wish to closely monitor to see if you have any connectivity issues. If you are worried, you should temporarily uninstall the COVIDSafe app from your phone.

If you have experienced any issues since downloading the COVIDSafe app, please let us know.”

A spokesman for health minister Greg Hunt told the ABC that the issue with the diabetes app was being investigated by the Department of Health and the Digital Transformation Agency.

Prof. Kidd said the CGM app should remain the “number one priority” for anyone who experiences a “clash” with the COVIDSafe app.

"While we sort out between the two different apps, whether there is any clash, it's most important that people are managing their diabetes, and doing so safely."

He remains enthusiastic about the take-up of COVIDSafe.

"We need as many people as possible to download the app … having four million people who have already downloaded in six days provides a fantastic baseline for us to start working from," Prof. Kidd said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison linked the uptake of the app to the timing of social distancing restrictions being eased. Privacy concerns and battery issues with Apple iPhones dominated discussion of the app last week, yet 3.5 million people uploaded the app within five days of its launch.

The chief medical officer, Professor Brendan Murphy also said a greater uptake might help to relieve restrictions sooner.

“The more we have signed up, the more confidence I’ll be able to give national cabinet that they can make a decision,” Prof. Murphy said. “The more confidence they can have, the more bold they might be,” he told The Guardian.

The sloppy roll-out of the app has fuelled the concerns of non-profit digital rights advocates Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA).

“The reason for rushing to release the app before it was operational is unclear,” read a statement released by the EFA on Sunday.

“The federal government has a woeful track record of tech and data privacy disasters including My Health Record, Census Fail, Robo-debt, the Data Retention scheme and myGov crashing just when Australians needed it most.”

The EFA listed concerns about whether the data will be accessible by the United States; whether those at risk of domestic violence are more vulnerable to hacking; ‘function creep’, where information collected by the app for contact tracing could be used for other purposes; data matching with other government-held data sets; consent issues with child users; user access to collected information; and the qualifications of officials analysing the data. “Protection of the data is reliant on multiple levels of government maintaining sufficient oversight of use of that data and any backups made of the data, which traditionally we know has been problematic with a lack of adequate protections,” the statement read.

“Similar to the promises made by the federal government when the data retention scheme was introduced, the assurances given at that time have proven to be flawed and multiple agencies who do not qualify as eligible to access that data are still obtaining it through back door means by way of requests made through eligible agencies.”

Opponents of contact tracing also suggest that contact tracing apps can provide a “false sense of security to justify reopening local and national economies well before it is safe to do so”.

However, the same critics concede that tracing apps can be an important component of an epidemic response when the prevalence of infection is comparatively low, as is the case currently in Australia.

“Such efforts are most effective where testing is rapid and widely available and when infections are relatively rare.”

Independent privacy adviser Stephen Wilson told that he would normally be “among the first to join the barricades” opposing COVIDSafe.

He agrees the government “has long tended to put national security ahead of privacy and has a poor track record of technology deployments”.

“But it saddens me to see respected privacy advocates rehashing entrenched positions at a time like this. There’s very little wrong with the app itself, but people resent it because they resent the government. Yet I don’t see how we can afford that luxury right now.

“Frankly, academic reference to ‘privacy risks’ right now makes me a bit sick. Where is the proportionality? With people dying in unfathomable numbers elsewhere, we have a good chance to contain community transmission and save lives with better informed contact tracing.”

How to use COVIDSafe app.

Have you downloaded COVIDSafe? Are you a diabetic who has experienced issues because of COVIDSafe?

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    4th May 2020
    I tried to download and install the covidsafe app today. but my Samsung smart phone is not compatible.
    4th May 2020
    As with you inquisitive, I tried to download the app as soon as it became available but it was not listed on my Samsung phone -- not top of the range but only about 2 years old.
    I eventually found information that non iPhones need to have android 6 or higher software but my phone only has android 5.5.1 so is not compatible. I tried to do an update of the software but apparently my phone won't take further updates.
    I have sent an email to the Prime Minister and received a generic reply but hope to receive a specific response some time this week.
    Horace Cope
    4th May 2020
    I'm in the same position with my Samsung Android and my wife's 'phone is not a smartphone. I would like to download the App but I'm not prepared to spend a few hundred dollars just so I can.
    Winston Smith
    4th May 2020
    I had my doubts about the privacy issues with this, but the bigger issue in my mind was that I can remember the last Australia-wide IT gift from this government, the last census. Are all these technical issues a surprise to anyone?
    4th May 2020
    I guess they wanted to see how compliant people were going to be, seems that over 4 million have already downloaded the app, I will not be doing so. Apart from the fact that it may not be compatible with my Samsung, because it uses Bluetooth connectivity it can drain the phone battery pretty quickly. If I don't download it will make little difference to the overall uptake rate. I do not like being told what to do.
    4th May 2020
    Just got a text a short while ago suggesting I should install the App. Well, that text got promptly deleted with an appropriate expletive comment. I'm not having this thing buggering around with my bluetooth, probably trash my bluetooth connection to my smartwatch.
    4th May 2020
    If you are already using Bluetooth then you are already subject to its vagueries. This, app will make no difference.
    4th May 2020
    I just turn Bluetooth off when I am home.
    It's easy enough to remember to turn it on when you go out.
    If the jolly app saves just one life, it will have done it's job.
    5th May 2020
    Haha, another ignorant selfish person - they are everywhere unfortunately.
    4th May 2020
    To people who have a Samsung smart phone go to your play store google app and download the COVID Safe app its green it will only take 5 minutes all up if that check your space before so you know you have room on your mobile you will need to turn on location & Bluetooth to operate it will not use your usage
    Horace Cope
    4th May 2020
    Just to qualify your comment, Connie, those with a Samsung which has an Android version lower than Android 6, you cannot download the App.
    4th May 2020
    Connie, that's strange and interesting that you need to turn on location as most other bluetooth connections don't need it. This seems to contradict the claim that it doesn’t trace your movements. Who would have suspected that?
    4th May 2020
    My Samsung smart it only 2 year old as I said you will need to turn on location & Bluetooth this is what they will tell you to do as you download
    4th May 2020
    You do not need to turn on locations for the app. The app cannot and does not track your movements and has no need for location information.
    Star Trekker
    4th May 2020
    I never have the location or Bluetooth turned on and I will not download the App. There has only been one case of the virus where I live so there is little chance I'll get it. I don't go out.
    4th May 2020
    You do not have to open your location if you use the Google app.
    You can check this out with a simple search.
    5th May 2020
    Connie - location DOES NOT need to be on, only Bluetooth. Try it, turn everything off and you should have a triangle for the app at the top of the screen in the notification line, now turn on Bluetooth only and the app notification changes to another symbol with the Bluetooth symbol inside - the app is now active.
    4th May 2020
    I will have to change my phone to samsung
    5th May 2020
    Why, you only need an Android (any brand) or Apple phone.
    4th May 2020
    I bought a cheap smart phone from Malaysia about 2 years ago, I only bought it because we were moving to 3/4 g in our area, the phone cost me $47 the app downloaded immediately, with no issues at all, you need to leave your Bluetooth turned on, the experts have said this app is far less invasive than many other apps already on phones, the experts I refer to are from non government sources, conspiracy theories will always surface whenever the government is involved. I am not an expert in tech stuff, so I can only listen to what the experts say, many people have their own reasons and agendas for decrying this app, I prefer to listen to the experts, just my opinion of course, each to their own.
    4th May 2020
    Funny how YLC rushes to decry the covid app and yet again fabricate an opportunity to take cheap shots at the Government and yet fail to mention the 17 independent IT experts who gave unanimously agreed that the app is both safe and does exactly what we have been told and no more.
    They have identified weaknesses with Bluetooth that have been known about for a long time and may be an avenue for hacking. However, that has nothing to do with this app nor is it the fault of the Government
    Shame you put so much effort into belittling the Government rather that helping to reduce restrictions on everyone.
    Winston Smith
    5th May 2020
    The Liberal love is strong in this one.
    ex PS
    5th May 2020
    Given this governments track record with IT and security I was reluctant to access this software, what sealed it for me was SCOMO's desperate attempt to bully people into using a "non-compulsory" app.
    If you don"t install it, I will not lift restrictions, come on SCOMO, what is it that you are up to? Your problem is you can't remember the lies you tell, one minute Education is up to the States, the next minute you send out one of your bully boys to discredit a Premier for managing his States education needs,
    5th May 2020
    It's disappointing that the Govt. has missed a number of points again.
    1. They advised everybody to download the App, many did thinking they had a functioning App only to find today it's not yet operational. Similar to the Census and Centrelink fiasco's.
    2. App will not work on many older phones.
    3. Some Iphones auto turn off Bluetooth as a security feature.

    However on balance considering safety Vs privacy concerns, I have downloaded the App and wait with bated breath for it's go live.
    6th May 2020
    ahem, the app does not do exactly what we have been told. The bumbler in charge, Stuart Robert, said the app would only collect data of other app users within 1.5 metres, for at least 15 minutes. According to the government's own Privacy Impact Assessment, the app collects data about all other users who came within Bluetooth signal range even for a minute within the preceding 21 days. And of course, there remain issues in relation to life cycles and access to data uploaded to the servers.
    8th May 2020
    I was prepared to download the app until I heard the data is stored in Amazon's cloud. I have vetoed Amazon (I've never used it - even before it set up shop in Australia) because it has contributed to my manufacturing business' demise.

    I ask these two questions:
    - Does Amazon pay tax to Australia?
    - Does Amazon make huge profits from Australians?

    And anyway, my iphone won't be useful to the app, unless they've somehow fixed the glitch. Does anyone out there know?
    4th May 2020
    I don't want to use the app, as i live in the bush and in any case, when I tried to have a look at it, my phone was not compatible. No way do I need a new Phone, unless the Govt pays for it!!

    A second problem: I get "reminders" from Fed Govt that I should downlload the APP. Maybe they are sending this to everyone, but I think not. If not, HOW DO THEY KNOW I HAVE NOT DOWNLOADED IT, IF THEY ARE NOT TRACKING MY PHONE ???
    No wonder I don't trust them.
    4th May 2020
    Sounds a bit OTT. I think that what you are getting is a reminder . I have downloaded the app and still get that message.
    5th May 2020
    Janus they are sending the message to everyone with a mobile phone regardless whether they have already downloaded the app or not. This is beong done via your telecom provider, not directly from the Government.
    4th May 2020
    My mobile is about 6 years old and sits in a basket until I go on holidays, I never use it otherwise and as we live in a country town where we have no known cases I won't be buying a new phone, and anyway you have to be in contact with a person for 15 minutes to get a result if they yest positive and I don't know anyone outside my family who I would be near for that length of time.
    5th May 2020
    I'm with you misty, and also in a small country town.

    My Samsung phone runs Android 4.something, and is only used (with a TravelSim) every 2 years when we travel o/s.
    Me and my wife both also have Telstra T96 "stupid" phones, which do phone calls, text's, take photo's, and not much else. They definitely don't do "apps"

    I might consider downloading the app if Scotty from Marketing supplies me with a phone capable of doing so. But he would still need to unleash all his marketing skills to convince me to actually run it.
    On the Ball
    4th May 2020
    Worth a read:

    Skip over the blurb, down to "Innocuous app, mistrustful government"
    5th May 2020
    A large portion of the older generation can not get this app, due to compatibility issues. We do not buy new phones every couple of years. My wifes and my phone are less than 4 years old, but not compatible because they are on android 5.1.1.
    5th May 2020
    Ignoring my personal concerns about any Government holding us to ransom to force as many as possible members of the population to download a (non)tracking tracking application to their smart phones, there are significant concerns here.
    If it is compromising the functionality of the CGM app, it will have to have updates issued very soon. That may be a simple uninstall and new download and install, or ride piggy back on the earlier version. The global history of fatal outcomes from Covid-19 tells us that people over 60 with underlying health conditions, including diabetes. are at much greater risk than those who are otherwise healthy. To suddenly single out a particularly at risk group is tantamount to criminal.
    As Chat points out, there may be many people who will find that their "smart" phone just cannot accept and run the app.
    From a personal experience perspective, I'd trust it more on an Apple iPhone than on any running Android as Apple have gone to great lengths to ensure that their OS's cannot be hacked or induced to run nefarious software without the owner of the iPhone giving explicit approval.
    In real terms, no-one knows if it will perform the task being claimed for it
    If the app is not actually going "live" for at least another week, it is pointless having it on our 'phones and shortening our battery life.
    Anyone who points their finger at the Coalition Government and accuses them of deficiencies in IT implementation should step back and accept that this is not unique to this, or any other, Government. The Qld Government under Labor has an abysmal record of implementing IT upgrades and new systems.
    "I'm here from the Government and here to help you" certainly sends shivers up and down many spines.
    Zasa Woods
    6th May 2020
    The COVIDSafe app speeds up contacting people exposed to coronavirus (COVID-19). This helps us support and protect you, your friends, and your family.
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    7th May 2020
    You have to be in close contact with a person for 15 minutes for this to work and as we are all told to stay home as much as possible and adhere to strict social distancing I don't see how that will work with most people.
    7th May 2020
    One of the IT specialist explaining this app said it uses very little battery charge and also the app must be left running at all times, not turned off.
    11th May 2020
    This article gives the light in which we can watch the truth. andhrawatch This is an extremely pleasant one and gives in-depth data on this site. A debt of gratitude is in order for this pleasant article.
    13th May 2020
    I downloaded the app as did my wife and now our phones don’t “see” each other on Bluetooth! When I reported the problem I got an automated response which was of no help whatsoever so i’ve Deleted the app till I get a human response to my second report of the problem!
    13th May 2020
    BFL an NZ based company has developed a solution that can help the business to enable their COVID exit strategy. It is an application that fits as a COVID exit strategy enabler. since the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve. Now’s the time to shift focus to efforts that support a return to work, while looking at the requirements to resume business. Here’s how organisations can begin planing and prework to establish a strategy to start operating.

    The solution is a part of the Covid-19 strategy for the corporates.

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    The solution can be integrated with the access management system and can be scaled up to integrate with the workforce management system.
    Flexible licensing model.
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