Australia’s COVIDSafe app becomes fully functional, Law Council bats for a robust legislative framework & transparency

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Image: Australia Govt.

By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 13 May 2020: The COVIDSafe tracing app has become fully functional here today. This was disclosed by the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Mr. Paul Kelly at a media update today. He said about 5.6 million people had downloaded the app and others who have not are encouraged to download the optional app.

He disclosed all states have signed up and trained to use the app as to what information they get and how it can be used.

Last weekend the government released the COVIDSafe app source code. In a statement, the Law Council said the code is consistent with its core regulatory design principles published on 24 April.

These principles included the release of both the source code and the privacy impact assessment as necessary for the operation of the app to be scrutinized by industry professionals, researchers, academics and community members so that individuals are in the strongest possible position to provide informed consent to the installation and ongoing operation of the app, says Law Council President, Pauline Wright, in a statement.

The Law Council will closely monitor the views of experts regarding the details of the source code and any actual or potential privacy and transparency impacts.

The Law Council also understands that a Bill will be introduced to the Parliament on 12 May to place the regulatory framework for the app on a legislative footing and replace the current Determination made under the Biosecurity Act 2015 (Cth).

While the Exposure Draft Bill contained several welcome improvements to the Biosecurity Determination, the Law Council remains concerned that a number of matters remain outstanding.

These concerns focus on ensuring that comprehensive oversight provisions are provided to the Privacy Commissioner, making the allowance for the prohibitions on the use and disclosure of COVIDSafe app data to have application after the automatic repeal, and applying a gradation to the maximum penalties.

The Law Council has also called on the Australian Government to expedite an executive agreement with the United States Government under the US CLOUD Act to minimize the risk that any data obtained will be able to be accessed by US authorities under US legislation.

The statement goes on to say, ” While the Law Council understands the need for the urgent passage of the legislation, we also consider it important that the legislation is subject to the normal processes of parliamentary scrutiny including committee review, and ongoing consideration once implemented. Given that the app is likely to be operational for a sustained period, it is important that there is a strong basis for continued public trust and confidence in its operation.

Both a robust legislative framework and transparency in the app’s technical specifications are critical to the important national task ahead.”

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