The Australian Government's new voluntary coronavirus tracing app 'COVIDSafe' has been released. Picture: AAP
The Australian Government's new voluntary coronavirus tracing app 'COVIDSafe' has been released. Picture: AAP

Easy Explainer: How the COVIDSafe app works

 

More than 1.13 million people have also downloaded the COVID-19 tracing app, which aims to help health officials identify people who may have come into contact with someone with the disease.

Called COVIDSafe, the voluntary app became available for download and registration on Sunday evening and has been backed by doctors, nursing, business and banking groups.

Here's what you need to know:

 

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE COVIDSAFE APP?

To identify people who may have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19 so that they can be advised to take measures to help stop the spread of the disease or get tested.

 

HOW CAN I DOWNLOAD THE APP?

Search for "COVIDSafe" on the Apple App Store, or on Google Play on your phone to download the app.

Once downloaded, you will need to open the app and register your details.

The app requires users to input their:

- Mobile phone number - so they can be contacted if needed for contact tracing.

- Name - so the relevant health officials can confirm they are speaking to the right person, although the Health Minister says you can use a fake name if you want.

- Age range - so health officials can prioritise cases for contact tracing.

- Postcode - to make sure health officials from the right state and territory are dealing with your case.

 

COVIDSafe securely makes a “digital handshake” through a device’s bluetooth connection with other people who have the app installed on their phones. Picture: AAP
COVIDSafe securely makes a “digital handshake” through a device’s bluetooth connection with other people who have the app installed on their phones. Picture: AAP

 

HOW DOES THE APP WORK?

COVIDSafe recognises other devices with the app installed via your phone's bluetooth connection.

"To be effective, users should have the app running in the background when they are coming into contact with others," Government Services Minister Stuart Robert said.

"Your phone does not need to be unlocked for the app to work."

Mr Robert said the app then securely makes a "digital handshake", which notes the date and time, distance and duration of the contact.

"All information collected by the app is securely encrypted and stored in the app on the user's phone," he said.

No location data will be collected at any time.

If an app user tests positive for COVID-19, health officials will ask permission to upload the data to a secure digital storage system.

The data can then be used to support health officials in contract tracing. They will not name the person who was infected.

Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy said COVIDSafe was be a major tool in streamlining the process of identifying contacts after a person tests positive for coronavirus.

"Finding out quickly means you can quarantine yourself or be treated much faster, protecting your family and friends from possible infection, and slowing the spread of the virus," he said.

"Without this technology, health officials have to rely on people being able to remember who they have been around, and being able to provide contact details for those people."

 

WHAT DOES THE 'UPLOAD MY INFORMATION' BUTTON DO?

The 'Upload My Information' button has caused some confusion among COVIDSafe users.

Clicking it tells users they have tested positive to COVID-19.

The button should only be pressed if an app user is advised to do so by a health professional.

The data can then be used to support health officials in contract tracing. They will not name the person who was infected.

You should only click the ‘Upload My Information’ button if advised by a health professional. Picture: Supplied
You should only click the ‘Upload My Information’ button if advised by a health professional. Picture: Supplied

 

SHOULD I BE WORRIED ABOUT MY DATA?

Mr Robert said unless a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, no contact information collected in the app is disclosed or able to be accessed.

"Once the (infected) person agrees and uploads the data, only the relevant state or territory public health officials will have access to information," he said.

"The only information they are allowed to access is that of close contacts - when a person has come within approximately 1.5 metres of another app user for 15 minutes or more - in their jurisdiction."

Contact data stored on a device will be deleted after 21 days, and all data stored will be deleted once the pandemic has concluded.

Personal information collected via COVIDSafe will handled in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988 and the Biosecurity Determination 2020.

There will be criminal penalties and anyone breaches someone's privacy.

Originally published as Easy Explainer: How the COVIDSafe app works


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