This project explores the trade-offs in using contact tracing technology to manage the risk of community transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Participants make recommendations on how contact tracing technology should and shouldn't be used as a precondition for re-opening organisations and businesses.
Problems and Purpose
In April 2020, the Australian government launched the COVIDSafe app. This application constitutes a tool for public health authorities to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Australia by facilitating the identification and containment of outbreaks . Using Bluetooth™ technology, the application identifies people that may have been in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. This technology's usefulness depends on a high volume of users, but it raises concerns about surveillance, discrimination, and data privacy. The government tried to address these by adopting legislation that notably makes it an offense to require an individual to have the application . Considering the trade-offs related to this contact tracing technology, the purpose of this deliberative initiative is to provide recommendations for government, agencies, and public and private organizations on how the application should be used in Australia.
Background History and Context
This deliberative process builds on research done by the organizers on community juries' role in assessing different technological strategies to enhance communicable disease surveillance in Australia .
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The Australian Centre for Health Engagement, Evidence & Values at the University of Wollongong is convening this initiative in collaboration with the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Emerging Infectious Diseases (CREID) and the University of Sydney.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Each deliberative group will have between 6 and 8 members, and the participants will have been selected to reflect the diversity of the region (New South Wales, Australia).
Methods and Tools Used
The deliberative process is inspired by the Citizens’ Jury method. The small groups of citizens will hear from experts before engaging in a facilitated discussion. Participants will receive a handout before the event that contains the questions that will be asked by the facilitator and background information. The groups will meet online via the platform Zoom.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The participants will receive in advance a handout to familiarize themselves with questions to be addressed in the project: the COVIDSafe app, contact tracing technologies, and the legislative measure adopted by the Australian Government. Participants will meet for one session of 2.5 hours on a weekday evening or weekend. At the beginning of the session, they will hear from experts about the contact tracing technology, its benefits, and the issues it engenders. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions and share their thoughts.
Following the expert presentations, the small group of participants will then take part in a facilitated discussion. The objective of this deliberation is to formulate policy recommendations on how the COVIDSafe app should or should not be used in Australia. The participants will be required to reach a consensus on the following questions :
- Is this legislation appropriate to the current circumstances? Has the legislation gone too far, or not far enough?
- What conditions, if any, should be placed on government-subsidized services that have a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission, such as public transport (e.g. should operators be able to refuse service to anyone who does not have the COVIDSafe app operating on their mobile phone)?
- Should organizations and businesses that created conditions where there is a higher-risk of viral transmission be able to refuse employment, service, or participation to anyone who does not have the COVIDSafe app operating on their mobile phone such as:
- workplaces (e.g. hospitals, factories)
- commercial businesses (e.g. restaurants, hairdressers)
- community organizations (e.g. community sports)
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
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Analysis and Lessons Learned
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 Department of Health, Australian Government, https://www.health.gov.au/resources/apps-and-tools/covidsafe-app
 Department of Health, Australian Government, https://www.health.gov.au/using-our-websites/privacy/privacy-policy-for-covidsafe-app
[3| For an overview of the community juries, see Chris Degeling et al., 2020, “Community perspectives on the benefits and risks of technologically enhanced communicable disease surveillance systems: a report on four community juries,” BMC Medical Ethics 21: 31. https://bmcmedethics.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186...
 Provided by Dr. Chris Degeling
This entry was written in collaboration with Dr. Chris Degeling.