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COVIDSafe app scepticism

The Australian Government has a handy app you can install to keep you updated. I haven’t yet checked what permissions it demands.

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More disturbing points of contact between COVID and the surveillance state: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-04-14/coronavirus-app-government-wants-australians-to-download/12148210

So the summary might be: Installing this app on your phone is voluntary but we have the gun to your head that without it all other restrictions will remain in force for longer and the economic pain will remain in force for longer.

the Government believes it would need at least 40 per cent of Australians to voluntarily sign up for it to be effective

From what I’ve seen they can probably get 40%. Too few Australians care about “secrecy, privacy, security, intrusion”, otherwise we wouldn’t already be in the legal cesspit we’re in.

The question that I would ask is: Is the app going to be open source so that anyone can independently review the security and privacy implications of the app? Or is it such rubbish that it would compromise the security of the app (or of the servers) for the source code to be made available?

Has the app been architected for maximum privacy i.e. data is not even available to government unless the data becomes relevant? not available to government at all but instead handled by a trusted third party? Is data destroyed once no longer relevant? Is data shared (e.g. with law enforcement) for completely unrelated purposes? You know, all the same annoying questions that were asked about MyHealthRecord but mostly never satisfactorily answered.

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What could possibly go wrong? :thinking:

Or whom the government decides is of interest.

From Europe:

And more broadly:

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Our government is keen:

but not everyone shares their enthusiasm:

After the data is no longer needed, all of the logs will be securely erased. I believe that, honest I do. :smirk:

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I have absolutely no intention of installing any government app that allows me to be tracked. Unfortunately, a series of Australian governments over the past several decades have managed to destroy any trust we once may have had in them.

While on the subject, I encourage all mobile device users to regularly check what permissions their apps have.

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Rejection of increased surveillance is a position shared by many.

Is it possible to not take a position on the benefits of contact tracing as a tool to better combat COVID-19?

Anonymity in public vs preventable deaths of vulnerable and elderly Australians, (and some younger ones too)!

While not perfect, that we now have the NDIS and Aged care Services says the majority of Australians do care about the elderly and more vulnerable.

What are the alternatives that can deliver better health outcomes, and fewer community deaths?

Is the only alternative a longer period of restrictions on personal liberty and freedoms? Until such time effective treatments become available (possible) or a vaccine (uncertain).

It’s reasonable to have expectations of how any App that can maintain a record of contacts should be implemented.

The choice for the community is to support effective and fast contact tracing:

  • To reduce community spread,
  • To reduce the stress on health services,
  • And reduce the numbers of preventable deaths.

Using an app - selfless?
Refusing an app - self…?

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An article regarding the app.

While I personally wouldn’t install the app, I can see why from a scientific/medical perspective of why some may choose to install it.

One has to also acknowledge that its installation and use is a voluntary. Sometimes we get hung up thinking that such things affects everyone, but in this case, one make a choice whether it is in one’s interest to partake in the app.

If I were is a high risk category for complications, it may have merit knowing if one has been visiting ot being close to someone with COVID-19. This potentially would allow one with high risks to seek medical advice in relation to what one’s risks are and the likelihood of contracting the disease. If in the future there are some measures found that may alleviate the symptoms of the disease, it may allow early adoption of such measures which could reduce the severity of the disease symptoms.

Is one having severe complications or even dying worth the potential reduction in privacy while the virus is wild and a risk…any reasonable person would say yes. When one dies, privacy no longer becomes an issue for the deceased individual.

As @dropbear has indicated, there is mobile phone tracking in part in Australia and more broadly in other countries. This is an extension of what already exists. If one uses many location apps, location data is already collected and used potentially by those one is not aware.

Last night’s ABC 7.30 had a piece on contact tracing as it’s currently practiced:

A piece cut from a New York Times live feed:

Some people and cultures are comfortable with that.

For me, there are too many questions:

  • it’s voluntary now, but will it remain that way?
  • it’s temporary, but will it really end?
  • the data are secure and anonymous, but how secure and can the anonymity be defeated (read the second link above on re-identification of data)?

As I said, the issue would be less substantial had government not so successfully destroyed trust.

[edit]
A bit on the combined effort of Apple and Google:

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Given that I’m very high risk, I will probably install the app. I dont go anywhere much but it would be nice to know if I have been in contact with someone who has the bug. However, I wont be using my main phone for the purpose. I’ll be using a secondary phone which is already on the list for reselling and then when the fuss is over, I will be restoring it to factory and selling it on.

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I’m of the same mind. Those of us with higher risk factors depend on the good will of the community to not throw is under the bus.

We know there are asymptomatic carriers (IE no visible signs of being carriers). It’s uncertain how many of the community are able to unwittingly pass on Covid-19. The most recent analysis has ongoing community infection increasing. Currently 10% of all cases are unable to be attributed to a known carrier, despite increased efforts at manual contact tracing.

If the trend in increasing community transmission from unknown sources continues, the community options may not be optional. .

Nearly 30 per cent of all locally-acquired infections may have been spread by community transmission, up from 19 per cent three weeks ago, the latest government data shows.

This brings the number of confirmed cases acquired by community transmission — meaning authorities have been unable to identify the source of infection — to more than 640, nationally.

P.S.

Certainly, given one of the extended family has been through the process recently, and fortunately returned a negative test. But only after they expanded the testing criteria due to a local hot spot.

And yes, it’s very clear that many of us would not like to go down the path of an enforced App. The moral choice would hopefully be all it needed.

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I imagine there will be many in the same boat.

As one of the risk categories is age…many those in this risk category won’t have the ability to use the app as many don’t use or own personal smart devices such as smart phones. My parents as well as many of their friends don’t have smart devices…so there are a significant number that can’t use the app, even if they wished to. Unfortunately there are a few (anti-government) commentators that forget this is the case and write articles with their own agendas.

Use of smart devices by senior Australians will be why the app won’t become compulsory as the government can’t force Australians to buy and use smart devices, they don’t have capability or training to use.

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True. If there is a need or benefit, it is going to depend mostly on the goodwill of the rest of us to take up the App. We don’t want the elderly and those at most risk being infected in the first place. For many of that group having a phone and an App to tell you where you were infected might not be reassuring. It would seem more critical the rest of us do our bit as best we can.

It’s about finding and helping those unwittingly carrying the virus, before it gets to a more vulnerable group in the community. That should include in the at risk group, the majority of our health care and their support workers. We need the best assurance they have not been in contact with someone who is asymptomatic, or unwittingly had close contact with another who has tested positive. An effective App should assist with the prompt ID of asymptomatic carriers, and those likely connected to known cases. It’s a task currently done through manually derived cross referencing for common contacts of those confirmed to be infected. That’s in addition to forward and backwards tracing where there is no obvious link.

It would be so much simpler if Covid-19 was more like other communicable diseases in how it is spreading.

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Of course he is refusing to rule it out. He is also refusing to rule it in. Maybe even he refused to say anything, that would be truly damning.

Perhaps he should be allowed to say “We will jump that fence when we come to it” or even, shock horror, “Who knows what tomorrow will bring, why do I have to make that decision right now and in public just because you want a freaking headline? Could I possibly be allowed to give it some thought if and when voluntary adoption and all the other matters related suggest another course of action might be required.”

But of course it must be a conspiracy if he won’t rule it out. The police need an excuse to break into your house in the middle of the night and demand that you demonstrate that your phone has the app and it is turned on.

The outrage machine doesn’t need an engine it’s perpetual motion, probably invented by Stephen Horvath.

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Our Prime Minister has proved so secretive and equivocal that we’re reduced to inferring from what he refuses to say. Given the increasing tendency to authoritarianism that the government has displayed to date, is it any wonder that he’s not trusted?

[edit]
For those who are still in denial:

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No wonder at all in my house. However that doesn’t mean that every time some journo says “So Prime Minister you are not ruling out taking the first born and giving them to Moloch” he has to answer, nor does it mean his refusal to answer has any significance.

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Unfortunately the media is about fast headlines, playing games and not reporting on substance. Asking to rule something out or in is somewhat irrelevant, what is important is the best policy for the nation and its citizens is implemented. Unfortunately the media can’t seem to ask questions about what is best and why…rather wants someone to say yes or no then prove them wrong at a later date saying promises have been broken, even if the adopted policy has merits and worthy of implementation. It is a bit tiring…

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This article advises that he has stated it will not be mandatory.

PM confirms tracing app will not be mandatory

Prime Scott Morrison has clarified the app to help trace people who have been in contact with a coronavirus case will not be mandatory.


Scott Morrison :heavy_check_mark: @ScottMorrisonMP

The App we are working on to help our health workers trace people who have been in contact with coronavirus will not be mandatory.

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10:20 AM - Apr 18, 2020

Twitter Ads info and privacy


1,393 people are talking about this

Taking to Twitter, he said the government will be seeking the “cooperation and support” of Australians to download the app to help health workers, protect the community and help get the economy going again.

“The App we are working on to help our health workers trace people who have been in contact with the coronavirus will not be mandatory,” Mr Morrison tweeted.

In an interview on Friday the prime minister appeared not to rule out making the software mandatory if not enough Australians signed up to make it effective, drawing howls of protests from Labor and others.

Trying to allay concerns over privacy, Government Services Minister Stuart Robert insisted there will be no surveillance involved in connection with the app.

The government says a new smartphone app will help track coronavirus.

PA Wire

It will simply digitise what health workers do now to try and trace anyone who has been in contact with COVID-19 case.

“Covid Trace … will be available in the next week or two for Australians to use,” Mr Robert told reporters on the Gold Coast.

“All Australians can have absolute assurance, from the privacy right the way to the security, right the way to the individual elements, the bits and bytes of the code, that the app is simply a health app for individuals voluntarily use to help us trace those who may have been close to someone who has been infected by the virus.”

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As long as they keep Dutton away from it, I’ll be happy to use it.

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