Following the release of the COVIDSafe contact tracing app, the Australian government reports that users flood to download the app.
The massive download numbers of COVIDSafe is a relatively positive news for the Australian government. The government does admit that its infrastructure is overwhelmed by the massive influx of downloads. Nevertheless, the government is interpreting this as a positive response from its citizenry.
However, there is a much bigger problem at hand for the Australian government. There are reports claiming that the COVIDSafe app is not functioning as intended on some smartphones. There are also reports that older operating systems are not supported by the app.
COVIDSafe technical problems
One of the major problems commonly reported is that the app does not support older mobile operating systems. Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly confirms that the app works on 90% of smartphones in the country. However, he did not emphasize whether the app will also support the remaining 10%.
The new COVIDSafe app means you’ll know quickly if you’ve come in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus so you don’t pass it on to your family and friends. Download the COVIDSafe app today: https://t.co/CAdEOwMXA1 pic.twitter.com/oGM0L6LVKd
— Australian Government Department of Health (@healthgovau) May 6, 2020
According to reports, the app has been downloaded by 5.1 million Australians. The app is available on both the Android and iOS operating systems. There are reports that the app does not work properly on older versions of the two operating systems.
Critics say that the app does not function the way politicians want users to believe. In response, the Australian government claims that the app is working well, and that updates will be constantly rolled out.
When asked whether the COVIDSafe works as advertised on the iPhone, Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt says:
“It is working and it’s working well. We had the fortune of seeing what Singapore went through.”
Data and privacy issues
Even before the app’s official release, questions about data and privacy issues are common. Privacy watchdogs express their concern whether the government will handle data and privacy with utmost care.
Further issues arise when it was revealed that Amazon Web Services receive $700,000 to host COVIDSafe app data. Amazon servers in Australia will host registration data from the app.
It is important to note that the app will only send registration data to Amazon servers. Data gathered by the app will be hosted on the user’s phone, and will be sent to Amazon’s servers if the user agrees to.
Since Amazon is an American company, concerns whether the data from the COVIDSafe app will find their way out of the Australian servers. The government guarantees that it will not happen, as measures to protect data and privacy are in place.
Image courtesy of Australian Government Department of Health/YouTube Screenshot