Science & Technology

Due to a police blunder, the McGowan government is fighting to rebuild public confidence in the SafeWA app

QR code contact tracking app Important part Of our defense against COVID-19. However, their value depends on their widespread use. In short, people who use these apps need to be confident that their data will not be misused.

So this week revelation Western Australian police SafeWA app It’s a serious concern.

The Premier of Western Australia’s Mark Magawan administration Unprecedented public support For the handling of COVID-19 pandemic so far. However, this incident risks damaging the WA public’s confidence in the state’s contact tracing regime.

Federal government Relatively expensive COVIDSafe tracking app — Designed to work automatically via Bluetooth — Joke assScanning QR codes at venues of all kinds is now a second property for many Australians.

These contact tracking apps work by recording the location and time of people’s movements using unique QR codes in cafes, shops and other public buildings. Individuals scan the code with their mobile phone’s camera, and the app allows this data to be matched across states.

That data is very valuable to contact tracing, but it is also very personal. Using the app instead of paper-based forms can significantly speed up access to your data when you need it. And every minute is important when trying to find close contact with positive COVID-19 cases.

However, this process necessarily involves the general public, who trust the government to use personal data properly, securely and safely for advertised purposes.

read more:
Australia has almost abandoned the COVIDSafe app in favor of QR codes (check in)

Australian government Poor track record Protection of personal data that has suffered various data breaches in the last few years. at the same time, Negative promotion When it comes to the handling of personal data by digital and social media companies, we emphasize that we generally need to be aware of the data we share with our apps.

SafeWA app Over 260,000 downloads within days of release, Primarily because of widespread confidence in the strong track record of the Government of Western Australia in the handling of COVID-19. McGowan when the app was released last November Written on his Facebook page The data should be “accessible only to authorized health ministry contact trackers.”

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Screenshot of Mark McGowan’s Facebook page announcing the SafeWA app.
Mark Magawan’s Facebook page

Nevertheless, the WA police SafeWA data accessed twice As part of an investigation into a “attention” murder case.Western Australian Government I learned in april This data was being accessed, but was publicly announced only in mid-June, further undermining confidence in how personal data was managed.

Today’s McGo One Publicly criticized the police You did not agree to stop using SafeWA data. However, the police mission is to seek evidence that is legally accessible. This includes the data currently collected by the SafeWA app.

It is the government’s responsibility to protect the privacy of its people through carefully written iron-covered legislation with no loopholes. It’s important to note that this law must be enforced, not later, before the contract tracking app can be deployed.

The state government may have postponed publishing details of the misuse of SafeWA data until a solution was Introducing the bill To prevent SafeWA data from being used for purposes other than contact tracing.

This is a welcome development and the government no problem Given its overwhelmingly double majority, it passes the bill. Restoring public confidence may be a more difficult prospect.

Trust is a modern premium product and wasting it without proper initial protection is a serious mistake.

SafeWA app Provided valuable information This speeded up contact tracing in Washington during the February outbreak in Perth. In the event of a future case, continued widespread use of the app will help you find close contacts, speed up targeted testing, and avoid or limit the need for future blockages. There are many reasons to think.

It depends on the McGowan government quickly regaining public confidence in the app. The new law is a big step in that direction, but there’s much more to do. Trust is hard to win and easy to lose.

read more:
Why people are reluctant to use the COVID-19 contact tracking app, as well as complacency


Tama Leaver is a Principal Investigator at the ARC Center of Excellence for the Digital Child and is funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC).

Originally published conversation..

Due to a police blunder, the McGowan government is fighting to rebuild public confidence in the SafeWA app Due to a police blunder, the McGowan government is fighting to rebuild public confidence in the SafeWA app

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