The current pandemic continues its spread across the globe, and the new Australia COVIDSafe app will aid Australian researchers in how the virus continues thriving in their country.
Australia COVIDSafe secures 1 million downloads
Called “COVIDSafe,” the app traces encounters for smartphone users. A person who stays in the presence of other smartphone users for more than 15 minutes (who also have the app on their phones) will find nearby users info in their phone data. The contact info remains on a user’s phone for 21 days and disappears afterward. Notice, though, that a person has to stay in another’s presence for over 15 minutes. What this means is that, if you quickly pass by a person in the store for a few seconds, the passerby’s information won’t show up in user data.
Australia’s new contact-tracing app downloads are at 1 million times in just 5 hours after launch. This is interesting, in light of the fact that contact-tracing apps come with privacy suspicions for users.
What explains the popularity of the contact-tracing app?
What are some reasons for the app’s popularity? First, there’s the urgency to discover how the disease spreads. Next, there’s the desire of citizens to know if they’re at risk of contracting the disease. If someone is at risk, he or she can quarantine and take proper steps to protect themselves and others from further exposure.
Apart from these, the privacy issue isn’t a problem. Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt says that phone users nor others can access the on-phone information. User data has encryption and goes to a national server. All contact-tracing information is preserved within Australian borders and won’t be allowed to travel elsewhere. Finally, no location or geographic data is shareable. Australian developers, decoding the app, find it to be as secure as Hunt says.
There is one privacy problem, however. It pertains to the fact that the Australian servers (the ones that will preserve the contact-tracing data) are controlled by Amazon, the famous online American retailer. Some fear that the US Federal Government could access Australia’s contact-tracing data without Australia’s consent. Some also think that these Australian servers fall under US law.
What is contact tracing?
Contact tracing refers to the ability to track those with whom a person comes in contact. The feature is being implemented into smartphones by way of a phone’s Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS technologies. Australia joins others worldwide in creating an app for its citizens. Outside of Australia, there are tech companies Google and Apple introducing contact-tracing implementations for both Android and iOS. Google and Apple are creating a cross-platform solution for users so that information from both Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS can be recorded when users come into contact with one another.
All contact-tracing apps arriving on the global scene draw their inspiration from China. Early on, China released its own Close Contact Detector app. The feature allows Chinese citizens to input their name and governmental ID to see if they’ve come into contact with an infected user. There’s no word on just how China detects a person’s exposure or risk to the disease. Singapore’s TraceTogether app tracks contacts users encounter within a 2-meter distance.
There is currently no vaccine available to treat COVID-19. The best enemy global citizens have at this time is to maintain social distancing (at least 6 feet apart) and proper hygiene (washing one’s hands for at least 20 seconds).