COVIDSafe application

The Commonwealth Government has developed and published a mobile application to facilitate rapid contact tracing in the event of further outbreaks of COVID-19 in the community and so more effectively protect public health.

The Commonwealth Government has introduced strict protections to accompany the COVIDSafe application. The Privacy Amendment (Public Health Contact Information) Act 2020 (Cth) provides for a range of offences and privacy protections in relation to the collection, use, disclosure and deletion of data in connection with the COVIDSafe application.

However, the Commission is concerned that the Commonwealth legislative protections do not extend to information collected or received by ACT health authorities in the process of contact tracing, including where that contact tracing has been facilitated by the COVIDSafe application. Where ACT health authorities, in the process of contact tracing, verifying and recording personal details that were originally received from the National COVIDSafe Data Store, confirm these same details they will be taken to constitute a new record that contains personal information under ACT laws. Information recorded in this way will be protected only by applicable ACT privacy laws, which permit disclosure where authorised by an Australian law or court order. This raises questions about whether the protections in place are sufficient to safeguard personal privacy and freedom of association.

The Commission has called on the ACT Government to consider whether complementary Territory laws may be necessary to supplement the Commonwealth legislative framework and to explain whether and why existing ACT privacy laws or any agreement with the Commonwealth provides sufficient protection for any personal information obtained by virtue of the COVIDSafe application. We consider that providing express legislative guidance about the potential use and disclosure of contact data by ACT health authorities may valuably serve to reassure Canberrans about installing the application and contribute to a greater uptake that better protects the ACT community.

Resources and commentary about the COVIDSafe application:  

Australian Government, Department of Health – CovidSafe help

Australian Human Rights Commission – Position on draft Biosecurity bill

UNSW submission to Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights about the Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) Determination 2020 (Cth)and the Privacy Amendment (Public Health Contact Information) Bill 2020 (exposure draft)

UNSW submission to Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 about the Privacy Amendment (Public Health Contact Information) Bill 2020