Just hours after its release, Australia’s new COVIDSafe coronavirus contact tracing app was downloaded more than a million times.
CovidSafe was based on a similar app, TraceTogether, which was developed in Singapore. It uses Bluetooth technology so that users within 5 feet of each other are able to prompt a “digital handshake”. The app will then log this contact and encrypt it for security.
In case a user tests positive, the app will use the logged information to contact those the infected user interacted with. This helps replace the current manual process in place of finding people who have come in contact with COVID-positive people. The app will also help the infected user by offering advice on things to look for, how and where to get tested, and what precautions to take to protect family and friends.
The app was launched as a means to help ease social restrictions. Only when 40% of the population starts using the CovidSafe app will it then reach its maximum effectiveness, says the Australian government.
Data and information collected by the app can only be accessed by state health authorities with strict restrictions on which persons or entities can access it. The Australian health minister even says that a court order or even police will not be able to access the data. Health officials will not name infected persons and all information will be wiped out after 21 days or upon deletion of the app.
Earlier this month, tech giants Apple and Google teamed up and announced a framework to develop decentralized contact tracing apps. With such sensitive information, companies involved in the development of these apps have pledged to disable the service as soon as the need for it is no more. Despite the increased security measures, no countries have yet signed on to use their framework.