Message from the Board
The last few months have been a scary time, with lots of uncertainty and change. Australia has weathered the COVID-19 storm better than some countries, but we’ve still had over 90 people die from this new virus.
As we start thinking about what happens next, the Federal Government released a contact tracing app, COVIDSafe, and is now using strong language to urge everyone to download and use it, without considering the very real and large privacy, trust and security issues.
There are questions about the app’s basic functions, before we start to look at what the details of the privacy and security concerns are. The app’s source code is yet to be released, and despite the tick given by the Office of Australian Information Commissioner, there are major privacy concerns.
The app has been introduced through regulation, not legislation, so that will be introduced into Parliament this coming week. We’ve got some detailed analysis about the legal implications on our website.
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.
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.
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.
We cannot permit our government to get technology wrong again. There is too much at stake.
You can help us with this vital work today, by becoming a member, making a donation, or buying one of these shirts or hoodies. Also join this call for the Government to be more open and transparent about the app.
BREAKING: The COVID Safe legislation exposure draft has been released - read it here. Check the EFA website and socials for updates as we look at the legislation details.
Further info on the contact tracing app:
COVID Safe App and the Law
EFA Board member, Michelle Meares, has taken a close look at the COVID Safe App and the law in this detailed analysis.
At one minute to midnight on Anzac Day, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt exercised his powers under the Biosecurity Act 2015 to enact delegated legislation providing for regulation of the data collected, stored and used by the COVID Safe App.
Read it all on our website.
Our first EFA Talks session was a great success, with many tuning in to hear a discussion between Dr Suelette Dreyfus and our policy chair, Angus Murray. They talked about former EFA Vice Chair Peter Tonoli and his significant contributions to digital rights in Australia, the High Court decision in Smethurst v Commissioner of Police which found the warrant invalid which was used to search the journalist’s home to find evidence related to a story she had written about new unprecedented powers to secretly access Australians’ digital information and the Federal Government’s announcement about plans for a COVID-19 contact tracing app.
You can catch up on this on our website.
The next EFA Talks will feature Lucie Krahulcova, talking with Angus about digital rights in a pandemic. Lucie is a Policy Analyst and professional activist for digital rights organisation Access Now. She's currently based in Melbourne from where she supports the Asia Pacific team as well as working on national legislation -- trying to fix Australia's broken relationship with encryption, surveillance and privacy.
When: Wednesday 6 May 2020 from 1.30pm - 2.00pm AEST.
The talks are free, with a suggested donation of $10 to support the work that EFA does as a volunteer organisation protecting and promoting digital rights in Australia.
Email Secretary@efa.org.au with any topics you would like us to address or speakers who you think could contribute to the discussion.