Australia: COVIDSafe app not legally ‘transparent enough to justify’ Says Austlii Boss

Over 3 million Australians have downloaded the COVID-19 tracking app, but a UNSW Law professor has warned the government has not been transparent enough. Reports Lawyers weekly

In the first 24 hours of its release, more than 2 million Australians downloaded the app. It took another two days before it reached another million, and it’s predicted reaching 4 million will be a much slower task, likely due to a lack of trust in the app’s legal implications.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and politicians across the country have been appealing for Australians to download COVIDSafe since long before its release but has so far failed to shift fears away by releasing enough information to gain the public’s confidence.

That is because, according to UNSW Law professor Graham Greenleaf: “It has not received advice [from the] chief medical officer, or others, that are supposed to show that this is a reasonable and necessary and proportionate measure to deal with the [coronavirus] pandemic.”

The government is yet to release the source code for the app so that independent experts can review and advise if it is technically safe to download and use. According to the Law Council of Australia, it is also still missing a privacy impact statement.

Legal bodies have called for a stronger legal framework on the app. Professor Greenleaf added Parliament needs to pass the legislation and the surveillance system, and “not just a determination by a minister which can’t be reviewed by anyone”.

Ultimately, it is up to each person to make up their own mind about whether to download and use the app, despite pressure from Mr Morrison and politicians.

“Each person will have to make up their own minds about the balance between all privacy issues and the extent to which they do or do not trust the government to run surveillance systems like this, and their perception of their need to protect [people],” said Professor Greenleaf.