Charles Gutjahr

Melbourne, Australia

My initial review of the COVIDSafe tracing app

27 Apr 2020 — a 1 minute read on opinion

COVIDSafe: Looks like government has does a decent job on privacy, it doesn't track your location, it doesn't store unnecessary information. You should feel safe installing the app.

The problem is it probably doesn't work. I installed it on two iPhones yesterday and then logged all the Bluetooth activity between them overnight. They were notably chatty at first, exactly once a minute contacting each other with COVIDSafe data — which is how the apps can trace who you are in contact with. The apps kept doing that while the screens remained on. Then when I went to bed I pressed the side button to turn the screens off. Communication stopped immediately. As far as I can tell for the rest of the night the apps didn't talk to each other. Looks like the iOS apps only work when both phones have installed the app, both are running the app at the time, and both have screens turned on.

That's not how people normally use their phones. They takes calls, watch TikTok videos, message their friends. My concern is most people will install it, think they're doing the right thing but because they use their phone like a normal person their app won't record even a single contact.

I don't want to be too harsh on the app. They tried something, and we should be trying new things to deal with this pandemic. I don't think the app works right now, but with more time (and probably adoption of the Apple/Google Exposure Notification protocol) they might be able to make an app that is useful.