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How does the government define privacy?

How does the government define privacy?

Excerpt from an article by Kelsie Nabben and Chris Berg*

Personal information collected via the COVIDSafe app is governed under the Privacy Act 1988 and the Biosecurity Determination 2020.

These legal regimes reveal a gap between the public’s and the government’s conceptions of “privacy”.

You may think privacy means the government won’t share your private information. But judging by its general approach, the government thinks privacy means it will only share your information if it has authorised itself to do so.

Fundamentally, once you’ve told the government something, it has broad latitude to share that information using legislative exemptions and permissions built up over decades. This is why, when it comes to data security, mathematical guarantees trump legal “guarantees”.

For example, data collected by COVIDSafe may be accessible to various government departments through the recent anti-encryption legislation, the Assistance and Access Act. And you could be prosecuted for not properly self-isolating, based on your COVIDSafe data.

A right to feel secure

Moving forward, we may see more iterations of contact tracing technology in Australia and around the world.

The World Health Organisation is advocating for interoperability between contact tracing apps as part of the global virus response. And reports from Apple and Google indicate contact tracing will soon be built into your phone’s operating system.

As our government considers what to do next, it must balance privacy considerations with public health. We shouldn’t be forced to choose one over another.


* Kelsie Nabben. Researcher / PhD Candidate, and Chris Berg, Senior Research Fellow and Co-Director, both of the RMIT Blockchain Innovation Hub, RMIT University

This article appeared first on The Conversation on 30 April 2020.


One comment

  1. It is now obvious to all but the willfully blind that the virus tracking App will be anything but optional. The pitch is “The sooner the App is downloaded by everybody, the sooner we can get back to normal”. That wasn’t a threat was it?

    No blatantly overt coercion will be used by the government to make people download the App but failure to do so will seriously impact the lives of those who do not.

    The new buzzword is “Covid Safe”. Once you download the App and you show no symptoms, you are considered “Covid Safe”. What I suspect this really means is, that if the employees who operate businesses are not “Covid Safe” then the businesses probably won’t be allowed to open. Anyone who is not “Covid Safe” will probably not be allowed to enter “safe premises”. The number of places you will be able to go will reduce drastically.

    This coupled with denying people eligibility for government payments etc unless they download the App will ensure its take up e.g. many schools will not take children unless they are vaccinated. Why not include the download as a requirement then extrapolate that in every area where the government has influence? Chinese Social Credit System anyone?

    The bottom line is that ordinary people will end up being forced to download the App just to work and live “normally”.

    Michael J Hand

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