Australian health ministers have been told to bolster the privacy protections behind home quarantine apps that use facial recognition and geolocation technology before making them commonplace.

In an open letter, the Human Rights Law Centre and Digital Rights Watch urged the adoption of stronger safeguards around the use and management of personal data, including biometric information, being collected as part of tec hnology trials.

Both groups backed using technology to support the transition from mandatory hotel quarantine to home quarantine, but say preventing the misuse of personal information through robust safeguards is essential.

“Unprecedented steps to gather and temporarily store personal information may be necessary to respond to the pandemic, however, such exceptional measures must come with robust safeguards,” the letter [pdf] reads.

“In particular, we are concerned that while much effort was made to ensure the legislation governing the COVIDSafe app had appropriate privacy protections, the same efforts have not been put in place for other technological approaches to managing Covid-19.

“Failure to implement proper privacy safeguards create a significant risk that the social licence for such policies will be undermined.

“Trust in government and digital tools used by government in the context of the pandemic is paramount to the success of these policy approaches.”

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