The Australian Government on Sunday launched a voluntary, though controversial, mobile phone application to track the whereabouts of users and alert them if they had made contact with someone diagnosed with a novel coronavirus.
Called COVIDSafe, this application is based on the TraceTomorrow Singapore contact-tracking application and uses Bluetooth to detect and record other nearby phones that also have an application installed.
The software will store encrypted notes about the time, date, distance and duration of each contact close to other application users. Geolocation will not be recorded and data will only be accessed by the relevant health authorities if the user has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
At a press conference announcing its launch, Health Minister Greg Hunt said the application was intended to “protect our nurses and our family, friends and ourselves, by giving advance notice if we have made contact with someone who might have been diagnosed as positive with corona virus. “
“There are more than 500 cases (COVID-19) in Australia where we have never found the original source (infection). There may be two people standing in line and one of them is accidentally rather close. Maybe using public transportation,” said Hunt.
Australia, which acts early in closing its borders and enforcing measures to maintain social distance, has been relatively successful in controlling the spread of the corona virus. However, authorities remain cautious about the second wave of infections.
“We won, but we haven’t won yet,” Hunt said.
The government previously stated that around 40 percent of Australians need to download applications to be effective.
Nevertheless, concerns about the privacy of those who use the application have increased.
“Australians will only download applications if they have confidence that their privacy will be protected,” Senator Kristina Kenneally of the opposition Labor Party said Sunday at Australian Broadcasting Corp.
At the time of launching the application, the health minister said it was prohibited by law for individuals who were not authorized to access data stored in the application, which would be automatically deleted after 21 days.
Australia has confirmed 6,711 cases of COVID-19 and recorded 83 deaths.