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Issue #1912      April 27, 2020




Late Sunday, 26th April, the Morrison government released an app that, according to the Guardian (UK), “tracks coronavirus victims and the people they come in contact with.” An app that has a similar function called TraceTogether is already in use in Singapore, with twenty per cent of the nation using it; the Morrison government is aiming for forty per cent take-up of their version of the app.

The app is said to be voluntary, but this shouldn’t ease the minds of Australians. According to The Daily Mail, the app would “[track] coronavirus victims and the people they come in contact with via Bluetooth.” Furthermore, according to The Conversation, similar apps store information between fourteen to twenty-one days and do not record your location. However, as whistleblowers like Snowden and Assange have shown, these statements about the tracking app should be received with immense caution.

Perhaps as a result of the brave work that whistleblowers like Snowden and Assange have done, the app has not been received well in the media. Many have rightfully noted the security and privacy concerns about installing such an app, especially post-COVID-19. The far-reaching implications of such an app are unknown.

As of yet, we do not know who is developing the app. However, there is talk about integrating the app with a proposal by Apple and Google. Knowing who the developers are, if the app development is outsourced, is information the public should know and the fact we don’t know, especially given that it is meant to be rolled out within a few weeks, should raise alarm bells.

What is particularly disgusting is how “Scotty from Marketing” is selling the app to the Australian public. “In the war, people bought war bonds to get in behind the national effort,” the prime minister said, “What we’re doing in fighting this fight is we’ll be asking people to download an app which helps us trace the virus quickly and the more people who do that, the more we can get back to a more liveable set of arrangements.” War bonds were purchased to help fight against fascism, and the Australian public received something after those bonds matured. Here, the Australia government is asking us to help assist them by installing an app the Australian public has not yet had the chance to scrutinise, with no benefit other than the potential for our privacy to be invaded! One might say, “The benefit lies in helping to crush the virus ASAP. The more who sign up, the quicker this can be dealt with.” That may be so, but where was the government’s sense of urgency at tackling this virus two months ago when we had sufficient data and information to implement the measures we’ve only recently applied. This app isn’t designed with your interests in mind; it is created in the interests of attempting to getting big business back on track, and potentially swiping personal information in the process. If workers were at the forefront of the Morrison government’s mind, they wouldn’t have reduced the usual voting window on enterprise agreements from seven days to twenty-four hours in the middle of a crisis.

This app was just released and is already incredibly unpopular – and rightly so. Inviting the Australian government into our personal lives is a dangerous risk. Instead of spending millions of dollars on an app that only a minority of Australians will sign up for how about the Morrison government allocates those funds to Australians who need that money during the crisis?


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