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Govt. Launches People Tracking App, Looks For 40-50pc Take-Up

CANBERRA: The Australian Government yesterday launched its coronavirus app for Apple and Android smartphones, with PM Scott Morrison urging phone owners to download it pronto.

The Bluetooth app, dubbed CovidSafe, aims to log the details when two or more phone users come into close contact – ie, within 1.5 metres of each other. The contact is logged automatically and the details automatically  encrypted.

People who download the software and agree to its use will be notified if they come into contact with another user who tests positive for coronavirus.

The Government says that people who download the software must supply a name, their age range, mobile number and postcode. The name can be a nickname or pseudonym.

According to Canberra, the phone user will be notified promptly if turns out that they have had contact with someone who has tested positive.

Officials says the data will remain encrypted on a user’s phone for 21 days.  If the user has not  been in contact with a confirmed case in that time the information will be deleted immediately.

If  the phone user does test positive to the virus, it will be sent to a central server, as long as the user has agreed to this process. From that stage approved state and territory health authorities can access and decrypt it and start seeking to contact other people on the user’s list who might have contracted the virus.

The Government swears the arrangements ensure only these authorities can access the information, and the stored information cannot be sent overseas or to other interested parties. For instance Health Minister Greg Hunt has said that the courts will not be allowed to access the data.

“The safeguards that have been put in place are the strongest ever,” he said yesterday. “Not even a court order during the investigation of an alleged crime would allow the data to be used.

”He stressed that unauthorised use of the data will be a criminal offence. “The data has to be kept on an Australian serve,” he said.

“ It cannot leave the country. It cannot be accessed by anybody other than a state public health official. It cannot be used for any purpose other than provision of the data for the purposes of finding people with whom you have been in close contact – and it is punishable by jail if there is a breach of that.”

The Government is hoping to see 40 percent of mobile phone-owning Australians using the app – and chief medical officer Brendan Murphy has tipped a 50 percent take-up.


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