Australia, 17 April 2020 - Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) calls on the Australian government to start talking meaningfully and in detail to technologists, rights advocates, and the general public about its proposed contact tracing app.

“The government has for some time demonstrated an aversion to transparency and plain speaking. In this public health crisis we need leaders who can speak honestly, transparently, and clearly to the public about their plans and what they mean for all of us,” said EFA Chair Lyndsey Jackson.

“The government can’t bully the public into trusting it,” she said.

“Australians are very well aware of the poor technology track record of successive governments. They have experienced first hand the issues with the Census, My Health Record, #robodebt, and MyGov melting down right when Australians needed it most. The government cannot assume it is trusted on technology matters because it simply isn’t,” Jackson said.

“To rebuild trust, the government needs to bring the public into its confidence. It must trust us to be able to talk through the issues, to find a way forward together. Australians do understand how to talk about technology, even if individual Ministers do not. There are many, many organizations out here in civil society who could be helpful. Our message to government is: You can’t do this on your own. Please, for once, let us help you,” she said.

“We need a position on technology that can be explained clearly and is well understood. We can firmly say: Protect people's privacy, be explicit with opt-in options, make code open source, store all data locally and in a distributed fashion. And, critically, we need a very clear time limit on these extraordinary measures so that people can have confidence their trust now won’t be abused in future,” she said.

“We cannot permit our government to get technology wrong again. There is too much at stake,” Jackson concluded.

About EFA

Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc. is an independent, member-funded not-for-profit organisation that has been promoting and protecting digital rights since 1994. For more information, visit efa.org.au.

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5 comments

  1. I have contacted the department and said I will only recommend to others that the app be installed if they provide the source code.

    I think more people should do so.

    Contact: [email protected]

    Comment by Chris on 20 April 2020 at 10:38
  2. The post by the op 'nailed it bro'
    here is what/why Chris is posting about
    https://opensource.com/resources/what-open-source

    Comment by havewebeenpwned on 27 April 2020 at 05:44
  3. App developer contact email, not sure if a lost cause:
    [email protected]

    Comment by Joshua on 27 April 2020 at 09:43
  4. Any update on provision pf the source code? I have heard a few different things!

    Comment by Robert Tait on 28 April 2020 at 23:34
  5. I have patched the app to allow me to see the data it sends to its server during the sign up. I am concerned about a data item it names "device_id". This is not the Android device id (or if it is, it's obfuscated), but deleting the app and reinstalling it leads to its using the same device_id again, to it's linked to the phone in some way.

    The intent may just have been to prevent people from signing up multiple times on the same device with different mobile phone numbers, though the need to enter a code sent to the phone by SMS would mitigate that.

    The existence of a unique id that can be derived from the phone that is then linked to the phone number and person's name in the government database must have raise some misgivings about privacy.

    The app does not appear to have tried to transmit any location data after I took it for a walk (and the phone has mobile data turned off).

    Comment by Sylvia Else on 29 April 2020 at 19:04

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