Posted on November 30, 2020 at 1:14 PM
Australia’s government has launched and updated a COVID-19 contact tracing app, believing that the app will improve the COVIDSafe capability.
According to Stuart Robert, Minister for Government Services, a new Herald Bluetooth protocol will be incorporated into the app. “The new app will offer “unparalleled app-level Bluetooth performance and contribute to better identification of potential close contacts” he reiterated.
179 vital tests carried out on the app
Australia’s minister of health Greg Hunt also expressed optimism about the capabilities of the app. He revealed that the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) is partnering with Google and Apple to integrate the protocol into the COVID19 safe app.
During the launch, tests were carried out to determine the performance of the COVIDSafe Bluetooth, and it was adjudged to be an “excellent” result.
According to the DTA, in May, about 179 vital tests were carried out for the Google Android and iOS versions of the app before its release. the organization said the app met all the requirements.
It also pointed out that there were performance tests carried out in line with the technical requirements.
However, in June DTA observed that the app had several flaws, even after releasing it for public use in April. It was discovered that locked iPhones are not helpful when it comes to logging encounters via the COVIDSafe app.
But after some updates on the app, it’s showing a positive report to the extent that there is excellent performance for locked iPhone to locked iPhone logs.
Github will provide the code to the app update to enable the tech community to give feedback before its release on the Google Play and Apple App Store.
Robert also said Australia’s contact tracing system and technology capability are world-class. He said the country will be the first in the world to start using Herald Bluetooth protocol.
He welcomes the tech community to carry out reviews of the code, testing, as well as providing feedback.
There is a plan to allow other countries to access the codes, which will enable them to benefit from the first implementation of the new technology to improve the digital response when it comes to managing COVID-19.
Australia’s tech community reacts differently
While the Australian government has opened the door for it’s the tech community to review the app, the community has faulted the government’s approach.
The project for the COVIDSafe app was reworked from Singapore’s TraceTogether app.
Australia’s tech community has heavily criticized the code, pointing out that the approach taken by DTA is not engaging the tech community.
According to the community, the code doesn’t have the level of quality that can regard it as a world-class app. The tech community reiterated that there were numerous flaws and issues raised about the app, but nobody was notified or contacted about it, according to researcher Jim Mussared.
Mussared also pointed out that the old and new BLE systems cannot work together even when they are using the same underlying payload. As a result, users need to carry out a manual update since it’s practically impossible for auto-updating to work, he reiterated.
Mussared also revealed that it will be more complicated and risky to add another layer of Herald protocol since the exiting protocol has issues of interactions between different keys. It led to tracking vulnerabilities, and the added layer of protocols will complicate things a little further.
The tech community has identified one major issue with the COVIDSafe code, which is the identification of only a few issues. When compared to manual contact tracing activities, the latter has proven more effective and reliable.
The Department of Health, during a senate briefing last month, pointed out that there were 27,554 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country, but only 17 were identified using COVIDSafe.
But the minister reiterated that it can pick and identify close contacts not picked through contact tracing, especially when used as part of the territory or state contact tracing efforts.