How is Australia COVIDSafe coronavirus tracing app work?

Updated: Apr 30

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called on millions of more Australians to download the nation's virus contact-tracing app - saying wide usage would be the "ticket" to normal life resuming as soon as possible.

"More than 2.8 million people have downloaded and registered for the government's coronavirus tracing app less than three days after it was released"

Contact tracing is one of the main methods of slowing the spread of coronavirus, but it isn't necessarily helpful when it comes to strangers you may have interacted with.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you're required to provide personal details of anyone you may have been in contact with recently, so that health authorities can alert them. Of course, it's impossible to provide this information regarding people you don't know, such as someone you may have stood next to in a supermarket.

In order to assist, the Australian government has launched Covidsafe, an app that traces every person running the app who has been in contact with someone else using the app who has tested positive for coronavirus in the previous few weeks, in a bid to automate coronavirus contact tracing, and allow the easing of restrictions.

Of course, it's still early days for COVIDSafe, and it's natural to have questions. Especially given the Government's previous track record with technology projects. With that in mind, here's everything you need to know about COVIDSafe.

Australia has succeeded in flattening its virus curve, with only one case from an unknown source reported yesterday. The nation has 6,746 cases and 89 deaths as of April 29, 2020.

But Mr Morrison said the nation's true success depended on society re-starting with protections in place.

He praised the 2.8 million Australians who had already downloaded the CovidSafe app since Sunday night but said: "I would ask millions and millions and millions more to do the same thing." The government has previously said it needs 40% of the 25-million population for it to be effective. The PM also compared the app's necessity to that of sunscreen. "I would liken it to the fact if you want to go outside when the sun is shining, you have to put sunscreen on. This is the same thing," he said.

About the app

The COVIDSafe app is part of our work to slow the spread of COVID-19. Having confidence we can find and contain outbreaks quickly will mean governments can ease restrictions while still keeping Australians safe.

The new COVIDSafe app is completely voluntary. Downloading the app is something you can do to protect you, your family and friends and save the lives of other Australians. The more Australians connect to the COVIDSafe app, the quicker we can find the virus.

How COVIDSafe works

When you download the app you provide your name, mobile number, and postcode and select your age range (see Privacy). You will receive a confirmation SMS text message to complete the installation. The system then creates a unique encrypted reference code just for you. COVIDSafe recognises other devices with the COVIDSafe app installed and Bluetooth enabled. When the app recognises another user, it notes the date, time, distance and duration of the contact and the other user’s reference code. The COVIDSafe app does not collect your location.

To be effective, you should have the COVIDSafe app running as you go about your daily business and come into contact with people. Users will receive daily notifications to ensure the COVIDSafe app is running. The information is encrypted and that the encrypted identifier is stored securely on your phone. Not even you can access it. The contact information stored in people’s mobiles is deleted on a 21-day rolling cycle. This period takes into account the COVID-19 incubation period and the time it takes to get tested. For more, see Privacy. When an app user tests positive for COVID-19

When someone is diagnosed with COVID-19, state and territory health officials will ask them or their parent/guardian who they have been in contact with. If they have the COVIDSafe app and provide their permission, the encrypted contact information from the app will be uploaded to a highly secure information storage system. State and territory health officials will then:

  • use the contacts captured by the app to support their usual contact tracing

  • call people to let them or their parent/guardian know they may have been exposed

  • offer advice on next steps, including:

  • what to look out for

  • when, how and where to get tested

  • what to do to protect friends and family from exposure

Health officials will not name the person who was infected.

After the pandemic

At the end of the Australian COVID-19 pandemic, users will be prompted to delete the COVIDSafe app from their phone. This will delete all app information on a person’s phone. The information contained in the information storage system will also be destroyed at the end of the pandemic.

Deleting the COVIDSafe app

You can delete the COVIDSafe app from your phone at any time. This will delete all COVIDSafe app information from your phone. The information in the secure information storage system will not be deleted immediately. It will be destroyed at the end of the pandemic. If you would like your information deleted from the storage system sooner, you can complete our request data deletion form.


Your information and privacy are strictly protected. Read the COVIDSafe Privacy Policy for details on how personal information collected in the app is handled.  A Privacy Impact Assessment was commissioned to ensure that privacy risks have been addressed. See the Privacy Impact Assessment Report and our Agency Response.

The Health Minister has issued a Determination under the Biosecurity Act to protect people’s privacy and restrict access to information from the app. State and territory health authorities can access the information for contact tracing only.

The only other access will be by the COVIDSafe Administrator to ensure the proper functioning, integrity and security of COVIDSafe, including to delete your registration information at your request. It will be a criminal offence to use any app data in any other way. The COVIDSafe app cannot be used to enforce quarantine or isolation restrictions, or any other laws.

Can it trace my location?

The app does not track location. The Google version of the app does seek permission for location information but that is due to permissions needed for Bluetooth.

Will it drain my battery?

Not significantly, however, the Apple version of the app will need to be open in order for the Bluetooth function to work. That will drain the battery more, however, the government made a change to the Singapore version of the app and you can now lock your phone screen as long as the app is open when you lock it.

It is understood that the federal government will implement the functionality developed by Apple and Google in a few weeks that will eliminate this issue and allow iPhone users to have the app running in the background.

Authorities have previously not ruled out making the app mandatory. Critics have raised privacy issues with the app, which reports information to a centralised server only accessible by health officials.

Several Australian states this week announced an easing of lockdown rules, with the worst-hit state, New South Wales, to allow households visitors from Friday.

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