COVID-19 | COVIDSafe – An update: what do the experts think?

1 May 2020
Antoine Pace, Partner, Melbourne

As expected, the COVIDSafe app has spurred debate, and has resulted in a sharp increase in the number of “data privacy experts” (including politicians) who are willing to publicly express their views! Since our earlier article, there have been a number of developments, including those discussed below.

While there are those who have enthusiastically installed the app, and others who for various reasons never will, the bulk of Australians likely sit somewhere in the middle – not falling over themselves to sign up, but not totally against the idea.

It is those people the Commonwealth must convince in order to achieve its desired uptake of 40% of the population.

An analysis of the app’s source code – to determine whether it functions in the way the Government says it does – may encourage some to get on board.

The Commonwealth is yet to release the source code itself, but a number of suitably qualified individuals have begun to analyse the app and release their findings.

One such group of experts hosted a COVIDSafe App Teardown & Panel Discussion to discuss the app and how it functions.  Their assessment?  Largely positive.

While the app presently has some shortcomings (particularly in relation to the operation of Bluetooth on iOS), the experts concluded that the app collects, processes and stores data in the way the Commonwealth had said it would.

Four of the participants themselves had already installed the app, and the fifth indicated they would wait until legislation (to bolster the Determination as discussed in our initial update) has secured passage through the Parliament.

The decision as to whether or not to install the app is one that each of us needs to make.  The tick of approval from some tech experts may allay privacy concerns, and encourage more people to sign up.

We think that the passing of legislation, when that happens, will provide even greater encouragement, as would the release of the source code for the app.

According to recent Government figures, there were almost 2 million downloads of the COVIDSafe app within 24 hours of its release, and four days after its release the app has been downloaded more than 3 million times.  A good start, but still a way to go to the targeted 40% of the population (or 10 million downloads).


For details of all our COVID-19 tips and updates, visit the Gadens COVID-19 Hub.


Authored by:

Antoine Pace, Partner
Gabe Abfalter, Associate

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

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