“Ask not what your country can do for you – but what you can do for your country” – prophetic words from President JFK but words that also apply to today’s situation about the government’s coronavirus contact tracking app.
The app, which is expected to be released in the next week or two, will remember all the people you spend more than 15 minutes with via the Bluetooth connection of their smartphones.
But the contact tracking app will only be successful if a significant number of people download and use the app.
To succeed in staying a step ahead of the spread of the coronavirus, 40 per cent of the population needs to get onboard. That’s a lot of people.
According to government services minister Stuart Robert the app is voluntary and won’t be used to track users.
It only uses Bluetooth short range technology to detect nearby users. It will not be using GPS.
Robert says if two phones are within 1.5m of each other for 15 minutes, a name and number is stored and encrypted on the smartphone. Not on a government server.
To put this into perspective, anyone who’s ever signed up to use a social media app, food delivery app, ride share app, gaming app and music app have shared much more information.
In comparison, the contact tracking app is quite minimal in terms of the data its asking for. And this data is encoded so no one can read it – just like it would be on the servers of Uber, MenuLog, Uber Eats, Spotify, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Apple Music.
But despite these assurances there has still been a remarkable amount of pushback from Australians who have said they won’t be using the app for fear the government will somehow use this data against them.
We’re pretty sure the government knows your name and number already.
We’ve been conditioned to make online connections with care and to try to keep our personal and financial details private.
I’ve often been the one advising about these very precautions so in my next breath I would never admonish or criticise people who won’t be using the app.
That’s their right.
We live in a free country, we live in a democracy and are well within our rights to completely ignore this app.
Just like it’s not compulsory to give to charities, volunteer to fight bushfires and help other people.
Today we’re faced with an extraordinary situation that calls for extraordinary measures.
But for us to get through it requires more than just staying home and practicing social distancing.
It also requires trust and compassion and consideration.
The contact tracking app will be a game changer for health officials if you or anyone you come into contact with contracts coronavirus.
Manually tracking people you come into contact with would take days and by that time the disease could have spread even further.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison likened downloading the app to national service.
“If you download this app you’ll be helping to save someone’s life,” he said last week.
Now to be clear, the app would have less tracking and invade your privacy far less than social media or using any of Google’s services like search or maps.
Ironically, many of the people opposed to the app and their perceived invasion of privacy decided to express these sentiments on Twitter and Facebook – two platforms that will know more about you and what you do and where you are than the coronavirus app ever will.
And on top of that, once this is all over you can simply delete the app – and then all the data it collected and encrypted would be deleted as well.
That’s what the government says and it’s time for all of us to believe them.
I’ll be downloading and using the app from day one.
I’m sure, like me, you want things to get back to normal.
I’d like to have a swim at the beach, grab a drink with my mates, have a meal at a restaurant, sit down for a coffee, go to the footy and watch a movie in the cinema.
We took these things for granted a few weeks ago.
For things to get back to normal, we need to do our part and download this app.
A way to incentivise downloading the app could be using it as a pass to get people back doing the things we like.
When the pubs, cafes, restaurants and cinemas open again, it might be a condition of entry to have the contact tracking app on your phone.
We owe it to our fellow Australians, including a lot of elderly people in isolation, to do our bit and help stop coronavirus in its tracks.
If it means having your name and number encrypted on another person’s phone for a few weeks that’s a small price to pay to safely regain our lifestyle.
Don’t do it for you, do it for your country.