Fears tracer app will not be ‘effective and secure’

LOCAL politicians are split on whether they will download the Federal Government's anti-coronavirus app.

The smartphone app, which will use bluetooth to keep track of people each user has been in proximity to, and alert those close contacts in the event of a coronavirus diagnosis, has raised privacy concerns.

Premier Peter Gutwein said persuading enough people to download the app was critical to its success.

But federal Member for Clark Andrew Wilkie has written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, saying he will not use the app until he is convinced it is "effective and secure".


Mr Gutwein wanted Tasmanians to "keep an open mind" on the app.

"I would hope that Tasmanians, when the app becomes available, would download it in droves," he said.

"Whenever government asks for something like this to occur, there will always be those in the community that will resist it, but we'll need around 40 per cent of people to sign up to this for it to actually work."

He said for the state to return to normal, there would be three prerequisites: extended testing, an "increased capacity to track and trace", and COVID-ready business plans.


Andrew Wilkie in Hobart. Picture: RICHARD JUPE
Andrew Wilkie in Hobart. Picture: RICHARD JUPE

But Mr Wilkie said he didn't trust the app.

"I remain unconvinced that the likely low take-up rate in the community will achieve anything, other than to give people a false sense of safety and encourage them to drop their personal health precautions," he said.

"I don't trust the government to implement, manage and safeguard the system without the risk of leaks or hacks."


State independent MP Madeleine Ogilvie said she would be downloading the app, but said improving privacy protections still remained of critical importance.

"It is safe to say major tech players such as Google already have much of our location data," she said.

"When it comes to the coronavirus Australia app, I have taken the decision that as a community member and political leader I have an obligation to do all I can to help contain the virus. I will be downloading the app."


Independent MP Madeleine Ogilvie. Picture: NIKKI DAVIS-JONES
Independent MP Madeleine Ogilvie. Picture: NIKKI DAVIS-JONES

Greens senator Nick McKim said he was firmly in the 'no' camp.

"I won't be downloading the app and I'd urge people to think carefully about their privacy before they make a decision," he said.

"This government has an appalling track record of data security, and has repeatedly released people's personal and medical information to the media for political gain.

"It also has a long history of eroding rights like privacy, and of increasing their own powers during an emergency and never winding them back.

"Scott Morrison only has himself to blame for people's lack of trust in his government."


Greens senator Nick McKim. Picture: MATT THOMPSON
Greens senator Nick McKim. Picture: MATT THOMPSON

Labor leader Rebecca White said people's privacy must be protected.

"I would like to see protections put in place to guard against people's private information being shared with third parties, and I'd like to hear more from the government about how this app will be used to both track and trace the virus, but to ensure there are no third parties that can get hold of this information. And to also remind people if they do download it, that they still have to maintain social distancing practices."


Australian Lawyers Alliance national president Andrew Christopoulos said the risks of the app's data being illegally accessed, used for unintended purposes or used beyond the immediate health crisis were high.

"It is not the app itself that we are concerned about, but the lack of legislative safeguards in place to protect our individual privacy," he said.

"The legislation that governs the app must clearly state that its use is limited to minimising the danger of community transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

"A sunset clause is essential, but we caution that these have previously been inserted into anti-terror laws, only for them to be later removed, proving that they do not provide adequate protection."


Originally published as Fears tracer app will not be 'effective and secure'