Tuesday, June 15, 2021

COVID app update gets privacy tick of approval

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards has welcomed the removal of the registration requirement for the NZ COVID Tracer app as a positive privacy move.

Mr Edwards says apart from the benefit of strengthening individual privacy, the ability for people to use the app anonymously should encourage more New Zealanders to use it.

“Fast and efficient contact tracing is a key element of New Zealand’s response to COVID-19,” he said.

“Identifying where individuals who have tested positive have been and who they have been in contact with is integral to interrupting the chain of transmission of the virus.

“While the NZ COVID Tracer app is recommended, some people may not have used the app because they believed their privacy was being compromised. Although over two million New Zealanders have downloaded the NZ COVID Tracer app, the challenge for our health authorities is to grow this number even further and get people to use it.”

“Using privacy-friendly contact tracing techniques enhances the likelihood that even more New Zealanders will be likely to want to contribute to the public health effort to identify and stamp out COVID-19 transmission.” 

He said the app assisted with contact tracing by enabling health authorities to send a notification to get tested to phones that have scanned into a location visited by a COVID-positive case.

“The app’s capability to do this remains unaffected but no longer has the requirement to retain any identifying information about a person,” he said.

The Ministry of Health has welcomed the endorsement of the app by the Privacy Commissioner.

“This is an important endorsement because we need all New Zealanders to know their privacy is protected when they use the app,” the Ministry said in a statement today.

“The latest update means you choose exactly what personal information and contact details you want to register with the app – all information is optional.

“Your digital diary of scanned QR codes is saved securely on your own phone where only you can see it, and it continues to be your choice whether you share your diary if a contact tracer gets in touch.

The latest app update also makes it easier to use, and existing users are no longer required to log in periodically.

The app will update automatically for most users over the next week, or you can keep an eye out on the App/Play store if you want to do a manual update.

Read about how to manually update the app.

There are now 2,379,900 registered app users and poster scans have reached 124,595,943. An average of nearly one million scans took place each day over the last week.

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