NSW to trial geolocation and facial recognition app for home-based quarantine

Along with the NSW trial, Tasmania will also begin a home-based quarantine trial for residents returning from regional New South Wales next week.

The NSW government has announced the state will undergo a trial of home-based quarantine for people arriving in Australia based around a mobile app using geolocation and face recognition.

The pilot will be jointly operated by NSW Health and NSW Police and entails a seven-day home-based quarantine program for around 175 people. It will be run across a four-week period and commence sometime this month.  

The app will use geolocation and face recognition technology to monitor whether a person is complying with the state's quarantine rules. It will also provide people with a testing schedule and symptom checker.

The government added that the mobile app would be supplied by random in-person checks and penalties would be doled out to individuals who breach their isolation during home-based quarantine.

Elsewhere: Technology could make fighting COVID less restrictive but privacy will take a hit

The mobile app is based on one that is already being trialled in South Australia, the NSW government said in a statement. 

"This will build on the evidence that's been collected through the South Australian trial as part of the national plan where we utilise technology, particularly facial recognition and location-based services apps on your phone, to help police continue to check-in on a person during their home-based quarantine," NSW Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism, and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said.

The trial is being conducted as part of efforts to remove the state's hotel quarantine system for the majority of people who are coming into Australia, Ayres said.

He added that both the NSW and federal governments hope the findings will inform future quarantine programs and provide information for how best to come up with alternatives for people who do not have access to smartphones.

In terms of privacy, the app will use the same mechanisms as the current Service NSW check-in regulations, the NSW government said.

All participants who are chosen for the pilot will have already had both doses of a government-approved COVID-19 vaccine.

See also: Living with COVID-19 creates a privacy dilemma for us all

On the same day, the South Australian trial that commenced late last month will expand in October to allow home-based quarantine for up to 250 people every week. The South Australian trial has had 98 participants to date.

Tasmania also reportedly announced it will begin a 30-day home-based quarantine trial for residents returning home from regional New South Wales next week.

The Tasmanian trial will be for eligible travellers who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Travellers will also be required to return a negative test, and must perform the home-based quarantine in a house with no other residents.

Elsewhere in Australia, Western Australia also has a home quarantine app in place for arrivals into the state. The app used in Western Australia, called G2G Now, has also been used in some cases within the Northern Territory.

Updated at 3:55pm AEST, 17 September 2021: South Australia announced expansion of its home-based quarantine trial.

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