Australia releases COVID-19 contact tracing app amid privacy concerns

Australia recently confirmed that it is rolling out its COVID-19 contact tracing app. The roll-out pushed through despite issues over privacy.

As the world continues to endure the COVID-19 pandemic, countries around the world are looking for a suitable strategy to curb the spread of the virus. Some governments have placed their entire country on lockdown, and some are implementing contract tracing apps to help isolate those who test positive of the virus.

COVIDSafe contact tracing app

Australia’s contact tracing app is called COVIDSafe. It is based on TraceTogether, a contact tracing app used and released by Singapore.

COVIDSafe uses a slew of communication protocols to gather data from its users. It uses Bluetooth and contact data to track user movement and alert them if they come in contact with a person who tested positive of the virus.

This particular type of data gathering has many people concerned about their privacy. However, the Australian government said that the COVIDSafe app does not collect location data. Moreover, the app only shares its gathered data to health officials after the user who tested positive have given their consent.

Among the data collected by the app are names, phone numbers, and postcodes. Because of how the app stores this data on its servers, it is theoretically possible for malicious users to access it. The government has yet to lay down its security protocols on how to protect these sensitive user data.

On the other hand, the Australian government promised that it would delete all the gathered information once the pandemic is over.

Contact tracing around the world

As more countries start to adopt contact tracing apps, Germany is looking for alternative solutions. The European country canceled its centralized approach when it comes to tracking COVID-19 patients.

Germany ditched the Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT) technology, and instead adopted a more “decentralized architecture.” This new approach will store data on user devices, as opposed to a centralized repository.

This decentralized architecture is closely similar to what Google and Apple are working on. The two tech giants are working on their respective contact tracing apps and will be releasing it on the beta stage within the next few days.

Many privacy watchdogs have lauded Germany’s approach toward contact tracing. However, the country has yet to confirm when it plans to release this new decentralized contact tracing app.

Image courtesy of CDC/Unsplash

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