Privacy infringement fears after police access data from SafeWA contact tracing app

Western Australia’s government will move to protect contact tracing data after it was legally obtained by police to assist a murder investigation.

Attorney-General John Quigley has revealed senior police have twice issued notices to the WA health department requiring them to hand over data from the SafeWA app since mandatory registration at venues was first enforced in December.

The data was obtained to assist investigations into a murder and an attempted murder.

‘Massive breach’

Opposition Leader Mia Davies on Tuesday labelled it a “massive breach of public trust”, saying West Australians had been assured their data would only be used for contact tracing purposes to keep them safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

Urgent legislation will be introduced to parliament to restrict the use of the data for contact tracing purposes.

Businesses will be required to keep the data for 28 days then destroy it as soon as possible.

File image of someone checking into a venue using their SafeWA app. Credit: RICHARD WAINWRIGHT/AAPIMAGE

Individuals found to have shared the data with a third party face 12 months’ imprisonment or a $20,000 fine.

Corporations face two years’ imprisonment or a $250,000 fine.

“I make no criticism of the police for issuing those notices. They operated according to law,” Quigley told reporters.

‘Balancing act’

“However the government has had to do a balancing act … it is so critical that the public have continuing confidence in SafeWA and contact registering.”

Quigley said he was confident the decision would not hamper any police investigations.

“They have, at their resources, far more sophisticated methods of locating someone’s whereabouts,” he said.

There have been more than 245 million check-ins on the SafeWA app since December.

The government promised upon introducing mandatory registering that records “would only be used for the purpose of COVID-19 contact tracing”.

Attorney-General John Quigley.
Attorney-General John Quigley says police have twice accessed data from the SafeWA COVID app. Credit: AAP

Premier Mark McGowan told parliament he had become aware of the breaches in April and requested that police no longer access the data.

He said Police Commissioner Chris Dawson had responded that his officers were simply doing their jobs by accessing information available to them under the law.

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‘Our view is the SafeWA app should only be used for contact tracing purposes.’

“Both of those investigations were very serious matters,” McGowan said.

“Our view is the SafeWA app should only be used for contact tracing purposes.”

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