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Smartphone tracing is happening. So let’s do it right.

COVID-19 ISSUES ALERT

“Government tracing app” are three words that send chills down some spines.

Australians are generally adverse to state surveillance and, let’s be frank, between robodebt and #censusfail the current Federal Government has a poor record with data, privacy and trust.

But stopping the spread of COVID-19 is the public health challenge of our lifetimes. Governments are using every tool in the box.

And one of those tools is a new smartphone app that logs peoples’ interactions for potential use by government contact tracers should that person later test positive to the virus.

We have concerns about this app. Done wrong, it means risks to safety, privacy and human rights.

But done right, it means lives are saved.

So here are some ‘red lines’ if we want this scheme to succeed:

 

1. Opt in.

The app must be opt-in only. Nobody should be forced or pressured to use it, either by the government or their employer. There must not be any penalties for people who choose not to use the app. The government should not criticise or penalise these people either.

 

2. Safe data.

Data collected by the app must be held securely and not shared with any private company or other government agency (like Centrelink). It must not be accessible by any police, law enforcement or investigative body, now or ever.

 

3. No penalties.

No community service organisation should be penalised for warning clients against using the app, if they make a judgement that the privacy or human rights concerns are too great.

 

4. Easy access.

People who do want to use the app, but who don’t speak English or have the required digital literacy, must be assisted to do so.

 

5. Help available.

LIkewise, for people who do want to use the app, but who don’t have a smartphone or adequate internet access, the Federal Government must facilitate app access and use at no cost to the individual.

It’s pretty simple.

If we’re going to do this, let’s do it right.

 

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