Onus on Government to Earn Public Trust On Tracing App

Phone location


An alliance of digital rights groups urged the Morrison Government to fill in obvious gaps in the development of the tracing technology to give it its best chance of winning public trust.

Today, the Morrison Government released the COVID-Safe tracing app asking all Australians to download the technology which is designed to inform them of every person a user has been in contact with.

The tracing app will only be effective if enough Australians feel confident downloading and using it, however the alliance believes that won’t happen unless the Morrison Government answers outstanding questions about the safety and privacy of Australians’ information.

Critical will be legally enforceable safeguards on the collection, storage, sharing and disposal of any personal information that is generated from the app, and a clear end date for when the tracing will stop and the data will be deleted.

Ideally, the Morrison Government would be looking at models that don’t threaten Australians’ freedom to go through life free from Government surveillance. The Government should have adopted a decentralised model for an app that keeps our information on our phones at all times.

But given where we are:

  • The Government must publish the source code not only of the app, but for the entire system at the Government’s end (both State and Federal);
  • The Government should provide for independent oversight and mandatory public reporting of all uses of the data.
  • The Government should, by legislation, eliminate the possibility of police and intelligence agencies using their anti-encryption powers, to use the app to access any information on a person’s phone.

Alice Drury, Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre said:
Designed properly, technology can see us innovate while protecting human rights. Our privacy does not need to be collateral damage.

Australians deserve to have their privacy protected by laws passed by Parliament, that provide for independent oversight and mandatory public reporting of all uses of the data.

Lizzie O’Shea, Digital Rights Watch said:
The history of government take-up of technology is one of over-reach and secrecy.

The government needs to recognise that the only way of this App succeeding is to work with those organisations that care deeply about the rights of citizens.

Peter Lewis, Centre for Responsible Technology said:
Australia’s national response has succeeded because government has worked with all available experts to get the policy responses rights.
These principles should also guide the deployment of technology to ensure that it has the very best chance of succeeding.

Digital Rights Watch has prepared a public explainer of the app and the core privacy concerns here: digitalrightswatch.org.au/covid-19-trace-app/