What You Need to Know About the COVIDSafe Contact Tracing App

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The COVIDSafe app has just launched in Australia. Although controversial, this app is designed to improve the speed and effectiveness of contact tracing for cases of COVID-19. It’s completely voluntary but Australians are being urged to install the app on their smart phones to improve contact tracing.

What does the COVIDSafe app do?

The COVIDSafe app speeds up contacting people exposed to coronavirus (COVID-19) which helps the health department protect Australians. The COVIDSafe app helps find close contacts of COVID-19 cases. The app helps state and territory health officials to quickly contact people who may have been exposed to COVID-19. The COVIDSafe app speeds up the current manual process of finding people who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19. This means you’ll be contacted more quickly if you are at risk. This reduces the chances of you passing on the virus to your family, friends and other people in the community.

How do I download the COVIDSafe app?

You can download the app on the App Store or Google Play. It’s free to download.

Do I have to download the COVIDSafe app?

No, it’s completely voluntary. However, according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, it helps with public health. “The more people who download this important public health app, the safer they and their family will be, the safer their community will be and the sooner we can safely lift restrictions and get back to business and do the things we love.”

How does the COVIDSafe app work?

When you download and install the app, you will need to provide your name, mobile number, and postcode and select your age range. You will then receive a confirmation SMS text message to complete the installation. The whole process takes less than 2 minutes to install. The system then creates a unique encrypted reference code just for you. COVIDSafe recognises other devices with the COVIDSafe app installed and Bluetooth enabled. When the app recognises another user, it notes the date, time, distance and duration of the contact and the other user’s reference code. The COVIDSafe app does not collect your location. To be effective, you should have the COVIDSafe app running as you go about your daily life and come into contact with people. Users will receive daily notifications to ensure the COVIDSafe app is running.

What about privacy issues relating to COVIDSafe app?

Privacy is a key concern for some Australians. The Health Minister has issued a Determination under the Biosecurity Act to protect people’s privacy and restrict access to app data to state and territory health authorities for contact tracing. It will be a criminal offence to use any app data in any other way. Other agencies, including law enforcement, will not be able to access the information unless investigating misuse of that information itself. The app also has a range of privacy and security safeguards built in, including no collection of geolocation data and secure encryption. For more information, visit the Privacy section on the Australian Government Department of Health website.

What happens when an app user tests positive for COVID-19?

When someone is diagnosed with COVID-19, state and territory health officials will ask them or their parent/guardian who they have been in contact with. If they have the COVIDSafe app and provide their permission, the encrypted contact information from the app will be uploaded to a highly secure information storage system. State and territory health officials will then:

  • use the contacts captured by the app to support their usual contact tracing
  • call people to let them or their parent/guardian know they may have been exposed
  • offer advice on next steps, including:
    • what to look out for
    • when, how and where to get tested
    • what to do to protect friends and family from exposure
  • Health officials will not name the person who was infected.

What happens after the COVID-19 pandemic?

At the end of the Australian COVID-19 pandemic, users will be prompted to delete the COVIDSafe app from their phone. This will delete all app information on a person’s phone. The information contained in the information storage system will also be destroyed at the end of the pandemic.

For more information on the COVIDSafe App, visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.


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