Today the Australian Government is launching the smartphone app for Android and iOS to help in the efforts of contact tracing. The app is called CovidSafe and is published by the Australian Department of Health.
The website also features a Help page to assist in understanding how the app works and those concerned with privacy, should absolutely take a read. It’s important that factual, technically accurate information is shared around this app, particularly when the health of Australians is concerned.
How does COVIDSafe work?
As you got about your life, Bluetooth your phone is scanning for possible Bluetooth devices to connect to. This unique Bluetooth ID is registered in the app.
If someone tests positive to Coronavirus, State and Territory health officials can check if your phone’s unique Bluetooth ID, is listed as a device that that person was close to. If your phone is on the list, you’ll be notified that you were near someone who has contracted Coronavirus (who also had the COVIDSafe app installed).
What data is collected for COVIDSafe?
After installing the app, you will be asked for the following:
- Mobile phone number – so that you can be contacted if needed for contact tracing.
- Name – so the relevant health officials can confirm they are speaking to the right person when performing contact tracing. This will be easiest if you provide your full name, but you can use a pseudonym or fake name if you prefer.
- Age range– so health officials can prioritise cases for contact tracing, if needed.
- Postcode –to make sure health officials from the right State or Territory who work in your area can contact you, and to prioritise cases for contact tracing, e.g. hotspot areas.
The app uses a rolling 21-day window to allow for the maximum 14-day incubation period, and the time taken to confirm a positive test result. The rolling 21-day window allows the app to continuously note only those user contacts that occur during the Coronavirus incubation window. Contacts that occurred outside of the 21-day window are automatically deleted from the user’s phone.
This app plays a significant role in Australia’s capacity to return to a more normal lifestyle. By understand when you come into contact with someone with Coronavirus, you can then be tested and quarantine accordingly. While it’ll definitely be disruptive when this occurs, it’s a powerful piece of data that can allow much of society to function again.
The Government had said the app would be open source, to allow security researchers to review the code, but it doesn’t appear that’s going to take place before the launch of the app today.
More information at https://www.covidsafe.gov.au and I’ll be downloading it as soon as its available.