WA moves to plug legislative gaps after cops access check-in app data

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WA moves to plug legislative gaps after cops access check-in app data
Source: WA government

Contact tracing data accessed during investigations.

The WA government has moved to stop authorities accessing QR code check-in data from the state’s SafeWA app after the WA Police Force did so on two occasions.

The government introduced new legislation on Tuesday to “definitively” limit the use and disclosure of contact registration information to contact tracing purposes.

It comes after WA Police accessed contact registration information while investigating two serious crimes, which is permitted under the existing legislative framework.

The WA government said the “intention was for contact registers to only be used for contact tracing purposes”, noting the hasty introduction of the system during the pandemic.

The Protection of Information (Entry Registration Information Relating to COVID-19 and Other Infectious Diseases) Bill will overcome this by strengthening the integrity of data protections.

It also formalises storage and disposal requirements, providing “clarity for businesses and venues that are required to maintain a contact register”.

Businesses are currently required to retain hard copy contact registers for 28 days, after which time they must destroy the records as soon as possible.

"This legislation ensures that information recorded on hard copy contact registers or through the SafeWA app will only be used for contact tracing,” Attorney-General John Quigley said.

“It also provides more clarity for businesses and venues around storage and disposal requirements of hard copy contact register information.

“While we know businesses are already doing the right thing, this legislation formalises these requirements.

“It strikes an appropriate balance without compromising standard business practices and will not be overly burdensome.”

More than 245 million check-ins have occurred through the SafeWA app since the end of last year, the government said.

Contact details collected by other contact tracing apps like SA's COVID SAfe can only be accessed by state health departments.

Data from NSW's COVID Safe check-in tool is similarly restricted to authorised personnel in Service NSW and NSW Health for the purposes of contact tracing.

In Victoria, data collected can be accessed by those authorised to do contact tracing, though government service minister Danny Pearson on Wednesday cast doubt on this.

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