Australia’s privacy regulator received several queries about the controversial COVIDSafe mobile app but no formal complaints within the first six months of its use. The regulator has also not been notified of any data breaches related to the contact tracing app.
The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner today released its first 6-month COVIDSafe report, revealing only 11 enquiries about the app and no complaints.
Seven of the enquiries were of a general nature, including the legal basis for the app and how many times it had been downloaded. Four more related to requests to download the app including whether workplaces, schools and sports clubs’ could request people download it.
Most of the enquiries occurred in July when Melbourne enacted a strict lockdown to control the second wave of coronavirus in Australia.
The latest report provides an update on the regulator’s oversight but does not evaluate the contact tracing app which was rushed into production earlier this year, at the expense of some of the privacy protection steps typical of such a project.
The OAIC has, however, conducted fieldwork and issued notices to some of the entities involved in the operation of the app as part of the regulator’s power’s to assess whether they are complying with Australian privacy laws. A report on the assessments is currently being drafted by the regulator and expected by the end of the year.
Today, Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk, said the assessment process is “robust” and will effectively audit the handling of personal information by entities involved.
The assessments will include the Digital Transformation Agency, which developed the app and acts as the National Data Store Administrator, as well as state and territory health authorities which have access to app data.
“The privacy protections that accompany COVIDSafe are important outcomes for privacy in Australia,” Falk said.
“My office will continue to work to ensure that the protections are being applied so that Australians can be confident in the protection of their personal information within the COVIDSafe system.”
Falk and her office were given additional oversight powers relating to the COVIDSafe app and its operation through changes to the Privacy Act in May.
Around the same time the DTA took over Data Store Administrator duties from federal health authorities and contracted American cloud giant Amazon Web Services to provide the service for the storage of encrypted information in a limited tender.