Aus Govt introduces privacy law for COVIDSafe tracing app

Aus Govt introduces privacy law for COVIDSafe tracing app

Australia’s Attorney-General, Christian Porter, has released draft legislation that codifies protections for personal data collected through the Government’s contact tracing COVIDSafe app.

The Government will introduce its new Privacy Amendment (Public Health Contact Information) Bill 2020 into Parliament next week, providing additional privacy and data protection safeguards for COVIDSafe users, according to Porter.

More than four million users have so far registered for the app, Australia’s chief law officer has revealed, adding that the Privacy Amendment (Public Health Contact Information) Bill 2020 will reinforce protections previously set out in the Government’s preliminary Determination.

The draft Bill clarifies enforcement mechanisms involving penalties already in place to prevent the misuse of COVIDSafe data, Porter said.

Once the new law is passed, it will be a criminal offence to collect, use, or disclose COVIDSafe app data for a purpose that is not related to contact tracing.

“New amendments place additional privacy protections into primary legislation through amendments to the Privacy Act 1988,” Porter said.

“The draft Bill I have released today will enshrine these protections in primary legislation and gives Australians confidence to download COVIDSafe, continue the fight against COVID-19 and get our nation back to business as usual.”

As the final step in a ‘triple lock’ of privacy protections, the draft Bill builds upon Australia’s Biosecurity Determination alongside existing agreements with the States and Territories.

These arrangements will comprehensively guarantee that Australians’ data is in safe hands when they download and use COVIDSafe, Porter added.

He stressed that the Government will satisfy its obligation to delete all COVIDSafe data from the National COVIDSafe Data Store once the pandemic is over.

It will also be a criminal offence to coerce a person to use the app, to store or transfer COVIDSafe app data to a country outside Australia, and to decrypt the app data.

A breach will attract a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment or $63,000 in fines.

Criminal offences under the Bill can also be investigated by the Australian Federal Police.

Individuals can have their complaints heard by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner or the relevant State or Territory privacy regulator where appropriate.

The draft legislation is accessible through the Attorney-General’s Department website.