How Does The CovidSafe Contact-Tracing App Work?

The Australian government’s much-talked about coronavirus-tracing app, CovidSafe, is now live and more than one million Aussies have already downloaded it. If you’re still unsure of how it works and whether it’s safe to use or not, here’s everything you need to know.

Is the app available now and do I have to download it?

The app went live at 6pm AEST on April 26, and later that evening Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed via Twitter the download figures.

“As at 10:30 PM, 1 million Australians have now downloaded and registered for the #COVIDSafeapp – please join us and help protect ourselves, our families, each other but above all else our nurses and doctors,” Hunt said on Twitter.

Although the government is encouraging Australians to download the app to help fight coronavirus, its use is entirely voluntary.

How do I download the CovidSafe app?

The CovidSafe app is available for both Android phone via Google Play and iOS devices through the Apple Store.

How does the app work?

For the app to work, you’ll need to enable Bluetooth on your smartphone. Similar to how you can find a nearby device that also has Bluetooth enabled, the app, once launched on your phone, will be able to detect other devices that have the app installed.

If you’re at a 1.5 metre distance for 15 minutes from another nearby device that also has the app running, your phone will automatically keep this data on record.

All data will be stored in encrypted storage that can’t be accessed by you or anyone else for that matter. It will only be stored for 21 days and then is automatically deleted.

The only time your data can be accessed is if you test positive for Covid-19. However, even then, the State Health Department will ask if you have the app and if you’re willing to provide it with the data.

If you agree, the data will then be uploaded through a secure process into the National COVIDSafe data store, operated by the Digital Transformation Agency and accessible only to the health department. Even then, only health officials from your state will be able to get the data to begin contacting people you may have had contact with so that they can also be tested for Covid-19.

A step-by-step guide to using the app

When you first open the app on your phone, you’ll be prompted by a note that asks you if you want to help. If you accept, it then goes on to give you an explainer on how the app works along with details on registration and privacy.

Once you give your registration consent, you’ll be asked to enter your full name, your age and postcode.

The app will then ask for your phone number so that you can verify it via a pin that will be messaged to you. Once that step is complete, you’ll see a list of app permissions for Bluetooth, location and battery optimisation.

After agreeing to the above, you’ve now successfully registered for CovidSafe. There’s nothing else you need to do except to leave the app running and keep Bluetooth on.

Is the app tracing my location?

No, it’s not. The app does not know where you are and it isn’t able to record any GPS information.

If you require further information, visit the health department’s extensive list of FAQs.


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