Implementing COVIDSafe: The Role of Trustworthiness and Information Privacy Law
Governments worldwide view contact tracing as a key tool to mitigate COVID-19 community transmission. Contact tracing investigations are time consuming and labour intensive. Mobile phone location tracking has been a new data-driven option to potentially obviate investigative inefficiencies. However, using mobile phone apps for contact tracing purposes gives rise to complex privacy issues. Governmental presentation and implementation of contact tracing apps, therefore, requires careful and sensitive delivery of a coherent policy position to establish citizen trust, which is an essential component of uptake and use. This article critically examines the Australian Government’s initial implementation of the COVIDSafe app. We outline a series of implementation misalignments that juxtapose an underpinning regulatory rationality predicated on the implementation of information privacy law protections with rhetorical campaigns to reinforce different justifications for the app’s use. We then examine these implementation misalignments from Mayer and colleagues’ lens of trustworthiness (1995) and its three core domains: ability, integrity and benevolence. The three domains are used to examine how the Australian Government’s implementation strategy provided a confused understanding of processes that enhance trustworthiness in the adoption of new technologies. In conclusion, we provide a better understanding about securing trustworthiness in new technologies through the establishment of a value consensus that requires alignment of regulatory rationales and rhetorical campaigning.