A lawyer’s opinion on the COVID Safe app

Thursday, April 30, 2020 5:49 pm
Reading Time: 3 minutes



While it’s beginning to look like we’re emerging from the COVID fog, that doesn’t mean the news is slowing down! In the wake of Easter, ANZAC Day and school holidays, there’s a heap of news to catch up on. To help us understand some new changes to restrictions, the return of school, and the Government’s new app, Jeziel got Simon Creek from HHG Legal Group on the horn.

Simon is a noted lawyer, social commentator, and all-round font of knowledge. He was able to clear up some burning questions.

What’s this new Government app?

Basically, the Covid Safe app is an optional way of tracing COVID cases. By downloading it to your phone, it’s able to anonymously track who you’ve spent time near. If someone you’ve been near tests positive, you’re notified to monitor symptoms or get tested if necessary. Until it comes to notifying people, the app is completely anonymous and works via Bluetooth. For example, you catch a bus and sit near someone for the whole 20-minute journey – the app will store the data that Person A was in the vicinity of Person B for an extended period of time. The idea is that if there is a second wave of a COVID19 outbreak, the government and health industry can track it fast and knock it on it’s head fast.

Simon points out that many lawyers are keen to help the government wherever possible in stopping this pandemic, but they have their reservations. Unfortunately, lawers (and other professions) have developed a distrust of how the government uses information nad at the end of the day this is a data collection tool.

“The government say that any data irrelevant to the pandemic will be deleted after 21 days, and we can only take their word for that. There’s been back and forth discussion about where the data will be stored. The government is saying now that the data will not be stored by Amazon in another country, but the fact that that was even considered is concerning. At the end of the day, any database can be hacked and this app has been put together so fast that I am concerned.”

But that’s the downside, on the upside we really do want to do whatever we can to fight this thing.

What’s the big deal if the government know what time I go to work and where I go on the weekends?

A lot of people are asking those questions, Simon does think there’s a lot to be said for the idea that if you’ve got a clean conscious what do you care about what people know about you. But it’s not that simple. Even that type of data, in terms of your habits can give rise to organisations marking you as a certain trend or ticking a certain box. Which gives ways to contact you and associate you with other data.

All of the safeguards as to how that data is going to be used is non-legislative. It’s been written as a “determination” which means these safeguards can be repealed or amended at any time. So there’s no law to protect how our data could be used, it’s all good will and the good word of the government.

So that’s both sides of the argument for downloading or not downloading the Covid Safe app.

“If it’s any comfort to anyone, I did download it today and it is currently running on my phone!”

Have a listen to the podcast below and then tell us what you think, have you downloaded the Covid Safe app? Will you? Join the conversation on our socials.

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