Concerns over COVIDSafe app

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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Ben Hocking
Ben Hocking
Ben Hocking is a skilled writer and editor with interests and expertise in politics, government, Centrelink, finance, health, retirement income, superannuation, Wordle and sports.
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