COVID-19 | Myths and legends behind COVIDSafe

7 May 2020
Dudley Kneller, Partner, Melbourne David Smith, Consultant, Melbourne

By now, we are sure you have read countless articles and have heard varying opinions on the Federal Government’s new COVIDSafe app and you may still be struggling to decide whether or not to take the plunge and download it.

On Monday, the Federal Government released draft legislation regarding the COVIDSafe app in an attempt to allay privacy concerns about the app. In this article, we explore some of the common “myths” we have been hearing regarding COVIDSafe.

  1. The COVIDSafe app tracks your location.


COVIDSafe operates as a proximity detector. The app is not designed to collect location or GPS information from users. The app uses Bluetooth signals to determine the proximity of users’ phones for the purpose of contact tracing.

  1. If I give consent when I download the app, the Government will have access to all information created by the app.


The app requires the user to provide consent at the time they download the app to the collection of their personal information. If you test positive for COVID-19, a health official will contact you and ask for your consent to upload the contact data into the National Data Store.

  1. I can delete the app at any time.


A user can delete the app at any time and COVIDSafe will no longer record the user’s proximity data.

  1. If you delete the app, all information that has been created by the app will also be deleted.

It depends.

You can delete the COVIDSafe app from your phone at any time. If you choose to delete the app, this will delete all COVIDSafe information from your phone.

However, if you have consented to having information uploaded into the National Data Store, this information will not be deleted and will instead be destroyed at the end of the pandemic (as required by the Biosecurity Determination). If you would like your information to be deleted from the National Data Store prior to the end of the pandemic, you can complete the Government’s request data deletion form.

  1. The data from the app will be stored overseas.


If COVIDSafe app data is uploaded to the National Data Store, it must not be retained on a database outside Australia.

  1. Data from the app will be stored indefinitely.


Records created on a user’s phone will only be stored on that phone for 21 days and will then be deleted. However, all data collected by government bodies from users who test positive to the virus will be deleted after the pandemic is over.

  1. If I have COVIDSafe on my phone, it will track everyone around me.


COVIDSafe will only detect Bluetooth signals of other phones that have the app installed and have Bluetooth enabled.

Privacy Awareness Week

Now that we are in the midst of Privacy Awareness Week, it seems very timely to be examining privacy considerations regarding COVIDSafe and for the Federal Government to release draft legislation regarding the use of personal information from the app.

In these current uncertain times and with our circumstances rapidly changing, health and personal information have become arguably more important than ever to stop the spread of COVID-19. The importance of protecting personal information remains constant and it is excellent to see individuals’ privacy and data rights being at the forefront of the media’s attention.

Take the time to stop and check the privacy controls for your accounts and consider how your personal information is being used. Ask the questions, do the research and make an active choice as to who you want to have access to your personal information.


Gadens is a supporter of Privacy Awareness Week 2020


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


Authored by:

Dudley Kneller, Partner
Lisa Haywood, 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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