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Australia’s COVIDSafe App has launched, here’s how it works

COVIDSafe App: Australian Government’s new app to monitor coronavirus cases has launched and can be downloaded from the Apple App store and Google Play store. Photo: Australian Government

AUSTRALIA has launched its mobile COVIDSafe App with an eye to controlling outbreaks and easing restrictions by having contact tracing systems in place by informing people who have had contact with those who test positive to coronavirus.

The app can be downloaded from the Apple App store or Google Play store onto a mobile device.

Once it is installed, the app lets you register with your name, age range, postcode and phone number.

This information is held with Amazon Web Services, which the government uses for its encrypted servers.

The data can then be passed on to state and territory health authorities if someone you’ve been in contact with, who uses the app, has tested positive to COVID-19.

COVIDSafe App uses Bluetooth to log the anonymous IDs of anyone you get within 1.5 metres to for 15 minutes or more, assuming they have the app too.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the app was not mandatory to download and install.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government would like to see about 40 per cent of the population install the app.

Indooroopilly parish administrator Fr Michael Grace, who spent 14 days in self-isolation after returning from his studies in Rome, said there had been people floating concerns about the privacy of the app.

He said there had been lots of assurances from the government about privacy, but he also said people handed over similar or even more information to companies like Facebook or Google.

“All of that information is recorded in an anonymous kind of fashion, but it is recorded and sent back and forth,” he said.

He said in his opinion the app was about getting society and the economy functioning again by easing up restrictions.

More importantly, he said it was about personal responsibility.

“If I am exposed to someone who has the virus, I would want to know, that way… I could go into isolation again another time so I could try to protect my loved ones, my parents and family members and vulnerable people in the community,” he said.

Still, many members of the community have voiced privacy concerns about the app despite government assurances.

Others have criticised part of the app’s functionality.

On Twitter, politics and public policy professor Dr Peter van Onselen said a major weakness of the app was that it only recorded people you had been around for more than 15 minutes.

“It’s the incidental associations that I would like traced, not the ones you’d likely remember easily enough,” he said.

The application is available on the Apple App store and Google Play store or can be reached at the government’s webpage covidsafe.gov.au.

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