By Joel Fitzgibbon
06 May 2020
The rate at which the Coronavirus App has been downloaded has been pretty good but the numbers are still underwhelming. There appears to be two reasons. The first is complacency. Many people think it won’t make a difference, either because of the ineffectiveness of the app or because, to quote a few, “it won’t make any difference whether I do it or not”. The second reason is concern about privacy and data protection.
The response to the first point is an obvious one: if we all thought like that, no one would download the app. Further, the app is effective. It works by recording each mobile phone that your own mobile phone has been in close contact with for 15 minutes or more. It uses Bluetooth technology to do so. If you are subsequently diagnosed with Covid 19, you can provide permission for your phone interactions data to be downloaded and provided to NSW health officials. They can then contact every person you’ve been in close contact with over the course of the previous 14 days (the incubation period). Those people contacted, as a result, can chose to be tested, which dramatically reduces the chance of people who haven’t yet developed symptoms further spreading the virus.
Privacy and data protection issues are legitimate concerns but each of us have at least a few apps on our phone now – including those with location services – which already provide more personal information than does the Coronavirus App. Also, a number of independent cyber-security experts have provided reassurance that it is safe. For what it’s worth, I’ve done my own homework and I felt more than comfortable about downloading the app.
This week the National Cabinet will meet again and those in the room will receive further expert advice. I’ve no doubt the rate of app take-up will, in part, form the nature of their advice. So, while it remains a personal choice, I urge people to consider downloading the app. It may just be the difference between securing, or not securing, a further relaxation of the rules. In other words, the more of us who download the app the more likely we are to get the pubs, clubs, restaurants and other businesses going again while keeping people safe. Not to mention our favourite sports!