Millions of older Australians could be unable to download the government’s coronavirus tracing app because it isn’t compatible with their mobile phones.
Out-of-date technology is stopping thousands of people from getting the COVIDSafe app, a new report has found.
The app has been heralded as Australia’s way out of the remaining coronavirus lockdown restrictions, as it would help officials find and track cases.
Based on the uptake of the app in Tasmania, the report concluded that there were two main reasons why people hadn’t downloaded the app, the first being privacy.
Of the 652 respondents to a survey who said they hadn’t downloaded the app, 38 per cent said they didn’t trust what would happen to their data.
The government said the app, which is based on a successful system in Singapore, needs to be downloaded by at least 40 per cent of Australians before restrictions can be lifted.
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COVIDSafe (pictured) has so far been downloaded five million times, but many have been unable to do so as their mobile phone is too old
This is despite the government explaining that it uses an encrypted user ID, which regenerates every two hours, and will not log any location data.
It means neither a user’s whereabouts nor activities will be tracked, with all data deleted after 21 days.
Officials even introduced a five year prison sentence if a person is caught collecting, using or disclosing information collected by the app, except by public health officials.
So far, more than five million people in Australia have downloaded the app.
But in the report, a further 15 per cent said they couldn’t download the app as they had older or incompatible phones, or not enough storage.
Australia’s coronavirus tracing app has so far been downloaded five million times (pictured, a woman uses her mobile phone while walking at Bondi Beach on April 3)
WHAT PERSONAL DATA IS COLLECTED?
– The name you choose to provide
– Your age range
– Your phone number
– Your postcode
– Information about your encrypted user ID
– Information about testing positive for coronavirus
– Contact IDs should you consent to that being uploaded.
– Bluetooth data is also uploaded, so officials can decide who needs to be notified if you test positive
‘The age range of respondents saying they will not download the app is between 25 and 84 years,’ Institute for Social Change director Professor Libby Lester told The Mercury.
‘[But] it is largely older people who say they cannot because of their phones.
‘We do need to understand this better, particularly if it is those in the community most vulnerable to COVID-19 who are not able to access the app.’
Tasmanian Federal MP Andrew Wilkie said it ‘beggars belief’ that the government concocted an that ‘older Australians can’t use’.
Of the 652 who responded to the survey, 40 per cent said they had downloaded the app.
But 25 per cent admitted they hadn’t, and 28 per cent were ‘unsure’.
To run the COVIDSafe app, users have to agree to turn their battery optimization off – meaning they cannot try and use a power saving mode
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that at least 40 per cent of Australians would need to downloaded the app in order for the bulk of restrictions to be lifted.
He compared using the app to buying bonds during the war.
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 6,894
New South Wales: 3,044
Western Australia: 551
South Australia: 438
Australian Capital Territory: 107
Northern Territory: 29
TOTAL CASES: 6,894
‘In the war, people bought war bonds to get in behind the national effort,’ he 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.’
Health Minister Greg Hunt has echoed calls for people to download the app, saying information was perfectly safe.
‘In terms of privacy, no person can access what is on the phone, no other person can access what is on your phone,’ Mr Hunt said.
‘It cannot leave the country. It cannot be accessed by anybody other than a state public health official.
‘It cannot be used for any purpose other than the provision of the data for the purposes of finding people with whom you have been in close contact with and it is punishable by jail if there is a breach of that.’
Downloading the app could be key to getting bars and restaurants open again (pictured, an empty Melbourne pub on March 23)
Concerns over older people’s ability to get the app comes after an elderly man was told by Telstra staff it would cost $30 for their help installing the COVIDSafe app on his mobile phone.
Gary Allen went to a Telstra store in regional Victoria after receiving a text about the Australian Government’s tracing software that was developed to control the spread of coronavirus.
The 79-year-old said he first tried to install the app himself but eventually became overwhelmed so he decided to get assistance from the Telstra shop where he originally purchased the phone.
Telstra regional general manager Loretta Willaton admitted it had ‘missed the mark’.
‘We’re sorry for the experience this customer had in-store,’ she said, adding that it’s not Telstra policy to charge for the installation of COVIDSafe.
AUSTRALIA’S COVIDSAFE APP – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
The COVID-19 contact tracing app is called COVIDSafe.
It only works on smartphones and can be downloaded from the Apple or Google app stores.
Use of the app is voluntary.
* To identify people who may have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19 so that they can be advised to take measures to help stop the spread of the disease or get tested.
Registration will require users to input their:
* mobile phone number – so they can be contacted if needed for contact tracing.
* name – so the relevant health officials can confirm they are speaking to the right person, although the Health Minister says you can use a fake name if you want.
* age range – so health officials can prioritise cases for contact tracing.
* postcode – to make sure health officials from the right state and territory are dealing with your case.
COVIDSAFE IN USE
The app will record the following contact data:
* the encrypted user ID.
* date and time of the contact.
* the Bluetooth signal strength of other COVIDSafe users you come into contact with. This will be logged every two hours in the National COVIDSafe data store.
* No location data will be collected at any time.
* Contact data stored on a device will be deleted after 21 days.
* All data stored will be deleted once the pandemic has concluded.
* Personal information collected via COVIDSafe will handled in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988 and the Biosecurity Determination 2020.
* There will be criminal penalties and anyone breaches someone’s privacy.
Source: Australian Government Department of Health