If we want to get our current coronavirus restrictions eased, the Prime Minister has told Australians we have to do three things: more rigorous testing, a greater ability to pounce on outbreaks, and better contact tracing.
The federal government says that’s about to become a whole lot easier with the release of COVIDSafe, a new app that will help state governments jump on coronavirus outbreaks.
Released on Sunday at 6pm, one million Australians had downloaded the app to their phones by 10.30pm.
LISTEN: Should you download the COVID-19 tracking app? Post continues after podcast.
Based on a similar app that is currently being used in Singapore called ‘TraceTogether’, the COVIDSafe app uses bluetooth to register the details of any person you come into contact with for more than 15 minutes; a “Bluetooth handshake” as the Health Minister referred to it as.
That data is saved – encrypted on your phone – so that if you test positive to coronavirus, your state health department will be able to identify all of the people you’ve been in contact with.
But while many Australians are happy to hand over their phones without a second thought – keen for any escape route out of our current reality – others are nervous about the level of power and control an app like this gives to our government.
Here are all of your burning questions, answered.
1. How does it work?
The app is basically digitising what is currently being done manually when someone tests positive to coronavirus. It doesn’t use geolocation, there’s no surveillance, and there’s no tracking only tracing.
All it does is connects to another person’s app if two people are within 1.5 metres of each other for 15 minutes or more. It swaps anonymised IDs, and that information is held securely in a person’s phone.