Australian Covidsafe App facing difficulties due to privacy concerns

The Australian Covidsafe contact tracing app has been in use for roughly a month but is now facing criticism according to this news article by The Guardian. The app is following a centralised tracing approach and collects extensive information about their users (for a comparison of tracing approaches in different countries, please see here).

The app was initially marketed by the Australian government as a key requirement for being able to lift social distancing measures. However, according to the article, only one case of successful contact tracing has been attributed to the Covidsafe app so far, in spite of millions of users downloading the app. The justification for performing extensive data collection of such a large user base and the associated significant risks to their privacy seems therefore insufficient in view of the actual benefits the app can provide. In general, tracing apps should be seen as an important complementary measure to increase the coverage of manual contact tracing, but not as the main solution.

Another aspect is that it is not sufficient that users just download the app. They must be willing to actively use it. If using the app is perceived as invading user privacy, many users will simply not use it. As the article discusses, changing the privacy solution of the app later on will be very difficult. It is therefore better to select a decentralised and anonymous tracing solution from the beginning on.

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