Australia Undertakes Massive Contact Tracing Endeavor

More than 1M have signed on so far
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 27, 2020 4:42 AM CDT
Australia Undertakes Massive Contact Tracing Endeavor
Crew on the the Ruby Princess wave with a cartoon sized hand and head as the ship departs from Port Kembla in Wollongong, Australia, Thursday, April 23, 2020.   (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Australian officials are pleased that more than 1 million people have downloaded an app designed to accelerate contact tracing for coronavirus despite some privacy concerns. Within 12 hours of the Australian-developed COVIDsafe app becoming available late Sunday, 1.13 million of Australia’s 26 million population had downloaded it onto their smart phones, the AP reports. Chief Health Officer Damian Murphy said Monday he was “really excited” by the app’s early popularity. The government says at least 40% of the Australian population needs to take up the technology, based on Singapore’s TraceTogether app, for it to be effective.

Government officials intend to rush legislation through Parliament to outlaw use of collected data for purposes other than tracing people who might have COVID-19. Officials have also promised to release the app’s source code within two weeks so that independent analysts can better understand how it works and its privacy implications. If users of COVIDsafe are diagnosed with the virus, they can upload the app’s encrypted data logs which identify other users who have been in close proximity for 15 minutes or more in the previous three weeks. The government hopes the app will enable Australia, which has recorded 6,720 cases and 83 deaths, to safely reopen the economy by enabling health officials to quickly identify and contain new outbreaks.

(Read more coronavirus stories.)

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