As the world struggles to fight the new Coronavirus, many countries have launched their respective apps to inform people about the virus, to find the positive patient and to do lots of more in the app features.
The Australian government also has launched Covidsafe, an app that traces every person running the app who has been in contact with someone else using the app who has tested positive for coronavirus in the previous few weeks, in a bid to automate coronavirus contact tracing, and allow the easing of restrictions.
According to Scott Morrison the Australian government’s covid safe tracking app won’t be mandatory to download and install, but could play a part in easing Covid-19 restrictions
The app will ask for your name (or pseudonym), age range, postcode and phone number Australia’s new coronavirus tracing app Covidsafe is available to download now from the iOS app store and for Android phones.
How to download Covidsafe App in Australia?
For your iPhone visit the Australian Apple App store and for Android visit the Google Play store to download the app on your mobile.
Also you can download and install the app fromthe government’s Covidsafe app page covidsafe.gov.au
For Android, you cannot download COVIDSafe if your Google Play account is set to an overseas location.
In iOS, if your Apple account is set to an overseas location, you will not be able to find COVIDSafe from the Apple App Store.
For Android, you need Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) or higher.
In iOS, you need iOS 10 or higher.
Other mobile operating systems are currently not supported.
COVIDSafe works on as broad a range of handsets as possible. However, there are limits as to how far back a new app build can go for reasons such as security and Bluetooth capability.
Once done you’ll be asked to register your name (or pseudonym), age range, postcode and phone number.
If COVIDSafe does not verify your mobile phone number, or you do not receive your PIN within a few minutes after you register, switch off the Wi-Fi and use your mobile phone’s internet when entering your phone number.
That information will be stored encrypted on a government server, and then passed on to state and territory health authorities in the event that someone you’ve been in contact with has tested positive.
Using Bluetooth, the app records anyone you get close to who also has the app. The two apps exchange anonymised IDs, which cycle every two hours and are stored encrypted on phones and deleted after 21 days.
If someone is infected with coronavirus, you then in the app consent to upload the list of anonymised IDs for the past 14 days of contact for contact tracing. It uses signal strength and other data then to work out who needs to be contacted.
The app uses less than 1MB of data per day. It does not need to be connected continuously to the Internet to work, but it does need to connect occasionally to retrieve new temporary IDs from the server. This helps to protect your privacy and to collect anonymised analytics data.
Your privacy data that will be collected
The name you choose to provide, your age range, your phone number, and your postcode, information about your encrypted user ID, information about testing positive for coronavirus, and then the contact IDs should you consent to that being uploaded.
Bluetooth data is also uploaded to the server upon testing positive in order for the government to figure out, using signal strength, which contacts need to be notified.
The data, once you consent to it being uploaded from your app at the time you test positive, will be held by the federal government on an Amazon Web Services server in Australia.
While the data will be held by the federal government, only state health authorities charged with contact tracing will be able to access it. Also federal agencies including Centrelink, Home Affairs and others will not be able to access the data.
Health minister Greg Hunt has written a direction that sets out only health authorities or those maintaining the app can get access to the information. This will be backed up by legislation to be introduced into parliament this month.
The government has said it will mean police will not be able to get the data, even with a warrant, and court orders will not be able to force the government to hand over the data.
The registration data will remain on the government server until the end of the pandemic or if you ask for it to be deleted.
Amazons role in the app and your data
Amazon Web Services, which is hosting the data in Australia, is one of the biggest cloud companies in the world. Given the millions of people expected to use the app and outages will make the app less effective, as well as the government’s history with using AWS, it isn’t surprising Amazon was chosen for the contract.
The company has the highest data security certification for its Sydney data centre. The 2017 postal survey was supported by AWS, and the 2021 Census will be hosted by AWS. Chances are, some of your data – be it through your bank, your airline, through Netflix or any number of services – is already hosted by Amazon. The government has said it will legislate to prevent data from the app being moved offshore, including for requests for data by the US government under laws such as the Patriot Act.
Also note that the app does not track location. The Google version of the app does seek permission for location information but that is due to permissions needed for bluetooth.
Also the Apple version of the app will need to be open in order for the bluetooth functionality to work. That will drain the battery more, however, the government made a change to the Singapore version of the app and you can now lock your phone screen as long as the app is open when you lock it.
It is understood that the federal government will implement the functionality developed by Apple and Google in a few weeks that will eliminate this issue and allow iPhone users to have the app running in the background.
Is App mandatory to install on your mobile?
Again note that the prime minister has said consent would be key to the app, indicating it would not be mandatory, and people would share information through the app only if they consented to it.
The national cabinet said that the app could be a valuable tool “if the numbers increase and the application is widely taken up”.
Health minister Greg Hunt said the government’s target for uptake of the app is 40% of the population. Morrison said automatic contact tracing would be a key component in states and territories easing some restrictions on “high-value, low-risk economic activities” after the next four weeks.
He compared using the app to buying bonds during the war. “In the war, people bought war bonds to get in behind the national effort. What we’re doing in fighting this fight is we’ll be asking people to download an app which helps us trace the virus quickly and the more people who do that, the more we can get back to a more liveable set of arrangements.”
The state governments in NSW and Victoria have both indicated they will not make use of the app a condition for easing restrictions, and will not require a certain percentage of the population to be using the app before restrictions will be eased.
People won’t be penalised for refusing to use the app or upload their data if they test positive, and the government has said it will be a criminal offence to refuse service, access to a venue or an event for failing to use the app.
The health minister added it will be against the law to use the data for a purpose other than contact tracing, and the data will be kept in Australia. “It cannot leave the country. It cannot be accessed by anybody other than a state public health official. It cannot be used for any purpose other than the provision of the data for the purposes of finding people with whom you have been in close contact with and it is punishable by jail if there is a breach of that. “There is no geolocation. There is no Commonwealth access and it is stored in Australia and importantly it is deleted from your phone after 21 days.”
The government will have a repository of the names, phone numbers and postcodes of everyone who had downloaded the app, which could be a potential honeypot, but the key data of who you’ve been in contact with stays on your phone and is frequently deleted.
The government has published a privacy impact assessment on potential concerns with the app. In its response, the government has also indicated it will release the source code for the app, subject to the approval of the Australian Cyber Security Centre. It’s not clear yet whether the entire source code will be released.
You can delete the app from your phone at any time, and the government has said all the information held will be deleted from its servers at the end of the pandemic. It is expected this sunset clause will be built into the legislation being introduced into parliament. For more information on the app and its features you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org