Western Australia finally thinks about quarantining COVID check-in info from cops

In June 2021, the Australian hard border state has begun the process of protecting COVID contact tracing information from law enforcement, after WA Police have already used it.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

A year after the coronavirus pandemic kicked off, Western Australia has finally introduced legislation into state parliament that would keep the information used by contact tracers away from the state's law enforcement authorities.

The Protection of Information (Entry Registration Information Relating to COVID-19 and Other Infectious Diseases) Bill covers information obtained through contact registers and the SafeWA check-in app.

The state currently lacks protections for such information, with WA Police having used it to investigate "two serious crimes".

"The system was introduced in the middle of the global pandemic and while access to this information was lawful, the WA Government's intention was for contact registers to only be used for contact tracing purposes," the government said.

"Information collected through the SafeWA app has never been able to be used for commercial purposes. This will remain the case under the new legislation."

At the end of 2020, Western Australia mandated that check-in systems needed to be used.

"Existing measures require businesses to confidentially and securely store written contact registers, and ensure recorded details are not easily disclosed to other customers," the government said.

"Under the new legislation, businesses and venues will continue to be required to retain hardcopy contact registers for 28 days, unless they are required for longer for contact tracing purposes. After that period has passed, businesses and venues must destroy the records as soon as practicable."

Premier Mark McGowan claimed his government has "always been committed to protecting contact register information".

"This pandemic is a one in 100-year event and during these extraordinary times, we have acted quickly to introduce measures to keep WA safe in a rapidly changing and unpredictable environment," he said.

"We only have to look at previous cases here in WA, and outbreaks in other jurisdictions to see how critical contact registers are in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and the severity of restrictions and lockdowns."

In May 2020, the Commonwealth government agreed to modify its Privacy Amendment (Public Health Contact Information) Bill to ensure that the nation's law enforcement authorities were unable to access the data stored as part of its COVIDSafe app.

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