Herald on Sunday
Tracing app may be forced on Aussies
The Australian government could force residents to download a tracing app to their mobile phones as part of its efforts to combat the spread of coronavirus.
Paul Kelly, the deputy chief medical officer, said the app, TraceTogether, which uses Bluetooth to create a record of other nearby phones that also have the app, will be voluntary at first, but requires 40 per cent participation to be effective.
The app will use data from people’s phones to tell health authorities who has been in close contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case, and who may need to be tested.
If someone is infected the app will be used to notify those with whom they have been in contact. When asked by local media if the experts advising the government were considering recommending the app be compulsory if less than 40 per cent of people volunteer to use it, Kelly would not rule out the option.
“I’ve always been a believer in the Australian people making the right decision. As I’ve said, this is an addon to what we have in terms of contact tracing and case finding, so I think we need to make the case for an app. I think we start with voluntary and see how that goes.”
Kelly said addressing privacy concerns around the app and the data it stored was a work in progress.
“We have to work to make sure this is as good and safe . . . and cover privacy concerns and so forth.”
Stilgherrian, a veteran Australian IT writer and digital privacy expert, said that while the concept of tracing was sound there were problems that needed to be addressed.
“One problem is the sense of false security people may get, which could lead to more risky behaviour. Another is the Australian government does not have a lot of trust when it comes to digital technology.”