South Australia is trialing an app that will monitor people who are in home quarantine by checking geo-location data and scanning their faces.
The trial, which began on Monday, allows around 50 South Australian residents returning from interstate to conduct their 14 days of mandatory quarantine from home.
Residents who sign onto the trial will install the Home Quarantine SA app on their smartphones to monitor their compliance with quarantine requirements through random in-app checks.
Users will have 15 minutes, when the app pings them, to prove they are at their homes by showing the app their faces and giving it access to geo-location data.
If they fail to do so, police will check on them in-person.
A spokesperson for SA’s Department of Premier and Cabinet told Information Age the Home Quarantine SA app was “developed from scratch over-two-and-a-half months” by a team within the state government.
SA Premier Steven Marshall said the Home Quarantine SA app – which also contains a COVID-19 testing schedule, daily symptom checks, and wellbeing resources – is an important part of the state’s COVID-19 management plan.
“This innovative technology is the most-advanced of its kind in Australia, and if the trial proves successful, could provide more options for home quarantine for returned South Australians," he said.
“We take no decision lightly when it comes to community safety; it must be reiterated this is a trial, and the outcomes and lessons learnt from it will be foremost amongst any decision to continue or expand it.”
According to its privacy statement, Home Quarantine SA will encrypt data “immediately upon submission” before sending it to an Australian server “under control of the Government of South Australia”.
There have been issues in other states with police using data collected by COVID-19 apps for purposes other than enforcing pandemic compliance, including in WA where the government quickly had to pass legislation stopping WA Police from accessing QR check-in data.
Data from the app “will be destroyed at the conclusion of COVID-19 pandemic,” the privacy statement says, unless it is needed to enforce a breach of emergency laws.
“We will ensure personal information is stored securely, not kept longer than necessary, and disposed of appropriately,” the state government assures app users.
Originally, the government offered a $1.1 million contract to Western Australian company GenVis to develop a version of a similar app used for home quarantine in WA.
But that deal was thrown out following complaints about glitches in WA’s G2G app.