Law Council calls on government to adopt core design principles when developing tracing app

With the government’s COVID-19 tracing app in development, the Law Council of Australia is calling for the adoption of core design principles to be included within the legislative framework, designed to govern the operation of the app.

Placing the app on legislative foundations will ensure that the parameters for the app’s use are clear, certain, legally effective and not susceptible to removal or amendment by unilateral executive action.

Law Council of Australia President, Pauline Wright, says that for the app to be of value, it is essential that the public can have confidence in the privacy and security of their personal information.

“We are urging the government to consider the series of core design principles for legislation developed by the Law Council in their deliberations,” Ms Wright said.

“If these principles are implemented, the public will have confidence in their use of the app, knowing that their privacy and other rights are being protected and promoted, while also contributing to an important public health initiative.”

The series of core principles include clear governing laws and administrative frameworks, adoption of a voluntary ‘opt-in’ model, limitations on the collection of users’ personal information, a prohibition on any secondary use or disclosure of information collected by the app, security of personal information, and limited use of de-identified information for specified public health purposes amongst others. See the Core Principles document.

While the Law Council welcomes reports that the government intends to introduce legislation to establish important privacy protections and other essential requirements for the app, it is recommended that the government release an Exposure Draft Bill before legislation is introduced to Parliament, to provide the public an opportunity to comment.

“If the government released an Exposure Draft Bill, then a Privacy Impact Assessment and the source code could be released as part of the materials accompanying an Exposure Draft Bill,” Ms Wright said.

“This would maximise the public’s confidence and assurance in the new app. It is in our collective national interest that the tracing app works effectively.”

The Law Council would be pleased to work constructively with the Australian Government and Members of Parliament to help this legislation implement optimum standards for privacy, security and transparency. It is in our collective national interest that the tracing app works effectively.

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