The Australian Human Rights Commission has welcomed the COVIDSafe App as an important public health initiative, which can help protect the rights of Australians to health and life.
The App also opens the possibility of easing restrictions on other human rights, such as freedom of movement and freedom of association.
Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow said, “The Commission welcomes the App and we will continue working with the Australian Government to ensure it protects public health, while also upholding all of our human rights.”
“Now that the App and the legal framework supporting it have been released we will assess whether any additional safeguards need to be introduced in legislation,” Commissioner Santow said.
Commissioner Santow also acknowledged the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s (OAIC) vital role in overseeing the App’s safeguards to protect Australians’ privacy rights.
The OAIC will retain independent oversight of how personal information is handled by the App and the National COVIDSafe Data Store, and will be empowered to handle complaints about privacy breaches. The ordinary protections in anti-discrimination and other laws will also continue to operate.
The Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) (Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential) (Emergency Requirements-Public Health Contact Information) Determination 2020 sets out a number of additional legal rules for operation of the App.
Legislation will be introduced to Parliament in May to entrench – and if needed supplement – the Determination, which contains a number of human rights and other protections.
Importantly, personal information collected via the App can be used only for contact tracing and to administer the App itself. Personal information from the App cannot be used by the police or others for law enforcement.
In addition, the Determination makes it a crime to:
- collect, use or disclose COVIDSafe App data inappropriately (s. 6)
- upload COVIDSafe App data from a mobile telecommunications device to the National COVIDSafe Data Store without approval, or retain the data for more than 21 days (s. 7)
- decrypt COVIDSafe App data that is stored on a mobile telecommunications device (s. 8)
- coerces someone to use the COVIDSafe App including by refusing to enter a contract of employment, refusing entry to premises or participation in an activity, to receive or provide a good or service (s. 9).
The Commission will continue to engage with the Australian Government, to ensure rigorous oversight of the App and that our human rights are protected.