The Australian Covidsafe App and Privacy: Lessons for the Future of Privacy Regulation
In: Belinda Bennett and Ian Freckelton (eds), Pandemics, Public Health Emergencies and Government Powers: Perspectives on Australian Law (Federation Press, 2021), 165-180
Posted: 27 Oct 2021
Date Written: August 31, 2021
This chapter provides a preliminary assessment of the Australian experience with privacy regulation during the pandemic. It examines the Australian legislation enabling the introduction of the COVIDSafe app, before exploring the interaction between high levels of privacy protection and the generation of public trust. We argue that the need for specific rules dealing with COVIDSafe contact data has highlighted weaknesses in the Australia’s existing data protection framework under the Privacy Act. The chapter also considers the privacy issues arising from digital visitor registration at public venues for contact tracing and analyses the effect of recent public debates about privacy for the future of privacy regulation in Australia. In our view, the public discourse about data protection during the pandemic demonstrates that Australians attribute high value to their privacy, even in a time of crisis. The example of the COVIDSafe app illustrates that robust privacy protections are critical to achieving a strong community uptake of new data-driven technologies. We submit that Australian society would therefore benefit if the government gave better recognition to privacy interests, and their protection, than it has done in the past.
Keywords: privacy, privacy law, Covid-19, contact tracing, Australian privacy law, data protection
JEL Classification: K19, K29, K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation