Help slow the spread with the COVIDSafe app

13 May, 2020 by Press Release

The COVIDSafe app is part of the Australian Government’s work to slow the spread of COVID-19. Downloading the app is voluntary and is something you can do to protect you, your family and friends and save the lives of other Australians.

You can join millions of people who have already downloaded the app by heading to the Apple App store here or the Google Play store here.

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Below are some answers to FAQs, using resources from the Australian Government.

What is COVIDSafe for?

The COVIDSafe app helps find close contacts of COVID-19 cases, helping state and territory health officials to quickly contact people who may have been exposed to COVID-19.

This speeds up the current manual process of finding people who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19,  meaning you’ll be contacted more quickly if you are at risk. This reduces the chances of you passing on the virus to your family, friends and other people in the community.

State and territory health officials can only access app information if someone tests positive and agrees to the information in their phone being uploaded. The health officials can only use the app information to help alert those who may need to quarantine or get tested.

The COVIDSafe app is the only contact trace app approved by the Australian Government.

How COVIDSafe works

When you download the app you provide your name, mobile number, and postcode and select your age range. You will receive a confirmation text message to complete installation. The system then creates a unique encrypted reference code just for you.

COVIDSafe recognises other devices with the COVIDSafe app installed and Bluetooth enabled. When the app recognises another user, it notes the date, time, distance and duration of the contact and the other user’s reference code. The COVIDSafe app does not collect your location.

To be effective, you should have the COVIDSafe app running as you go about your daily business and come into contact with people. Users will receive daily notifications to ensure the COVIDSafe app is running.

The information is encrypted and that encrypted identifier is stored securely on your phone. Not even you can access it. The contact information stored in people’s mobiles is deleted on a 21-day rolling cycle. This period takes into account the COVID-19 incubation period and the time it takes to get tested. For more info on Privacy, see the Department of Health website.

What happens when an app user tests positive for COVID-19?

When someone is diagnosed with COVID-19, state and territory health officials will ask them or their parent/guardian who they have been in contact with. If they have the COVIDSafe app and provide their permission, the encrypted contact information from the app will be uploaded to a highly secure information storage system. State and territory health officials will then:

  • use the contacts captured by the app to support their usual contact tracing
  • call people to let them or their parent/guardian know they may have been exposed
  • offer advice on next steps, including:
    • what to look out for
    • when, how and where to get tested
    • what to do to protect friends and family from exposure

Health officials will not name the person who was infected.

Deleting the app

At the end of the Australian COVID-19 pandemic, users will be prompted to delete the COVIDSafe app from their phone. This will delete all app information on a person’s phone. The information contained in the information storage system will also be destroyed at the end of the pandemic.

You can delete the COVIDSafe app from your phone at any time before then – for more information on doing this, see the Department of Health website here.

What about privacy?

From the Department of Health website:

“Your information and privacy is strictly protected.

“Read the COVIDSafe Privacy Policy for details on how personal information collected in the app is handled. The privacy policy is available in languages other than English.

“A Privacy Impact Assessment was commissioned to ensure that privacy risks have been addressed. See the Privacy Impact Assessment Report and our Agency Response.

“The Health Minister has issued a Determination under the Biosecurity Act to protect people’s privacy and restrict access to information from the app. State and territory health authorities can access the information for contact tracing only. The only other access will be by the COVIDSafe Administrator to ensure the proper functioning, integrity and security of COVIDSafe, including to delete your registration information at your request. It will be a criminal offence to use any app data in any other way. The COVIDSafe app cannot be used to enforce quarantine or isolation restrictions, or any other laws.

“The Australian Government has developed draft legislation to support the COVIDSafe app and ensure users’ privacy is protected. See the exposure draft of the Privacy Amendment (Public Health Contact Information) Bill 2020.”