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I work for an IT firm and am currently the person in charge of doing onsite troubleshooting for PCs in the office while everyone is working from home (Remote Desktop solution we adopt requires out PCs to be on but there are still issues).

Recently the Australian Government came out with a Coronovirus Tracking app that uses bluetooth to handshake other users and store these handshakes so that if any of them gets Coronovirus we are notified. i have my own privacy and security concerns about this app however the Australian Government has said it's option for people to use

Do I have to use the contact app?

• No. Its use is entirely voluntary, but using it will help save lives.

Source: CORONAVIRUS CONTACT APP FAQS PFD File from FAQ Page

Today when I got into work I saw a company wide email talking about this, the part that concerned me was this

It is required that all employees are to install the COVIDSafe app on either a work provided phone or a personal phone.

I know some people have been provided with mobiles from work but not everyone (myself included) and even if I was provided with a work mobile I would still object to installing the app because of my concerns. While the email does not explicitly state that installing this app is a requirement for continued employment the fact it says installing it required and doesn't say anything about those who choose not to seems makes me concerned.

What can I do to proceed?


Though I don't think it matters to the question, my concerns about the app is not only the obvious potential to track people but also

  • the Australian Government had security and privacy issues with the roll out of the National Health Record which dimly colours the rollout of this app
  • I keep my bluetooth off to extend the battery as I live in a remote area and phone reception needs to be boosted at times which already causes enough of a drain
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    Note to all: you are on The Workplace not Android Enthusiasts or similar sites. The specifics of the app and technical workarounds aren't really in our scope and comments should be used for clarification of the OP's question and intent only. To that end @Alvin: is your priority to avoid installing the app yourself, to push back against this request, to check whether your employer can ask this, or something else?
    – Lilienthal
    Apr 27 '20 at 7:04
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    Note that "the government says it's optional" is a bit vague. Did the government say that it's not legally required by the government themselves, or that it's illegal (for an employer) to require it?
    – Flater
    Apr 27 '20 at 9:48
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    How will they possibly know if you have installed it or not on a personal phone? Apr 27 '20 at 11:42
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    Ask for a work phone, install the app then power it off and put it in a drawer .....
    – Alan Dev
    Oct 28 at 20:27
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The news this morning reported that it will be made illegal to force employees to download the app, under the privacy provisions and the Biosecurity Determination which govern the use of the app and data it collects.

You can refuse the request from your employer and cite the following from the Department of Health:

Privacy policy for COVIDSafe app - How will personal information be collected? - Australian Government Department of Health

No user should feel pressured to install or continue to use COVIDSafe, or to agree to upload contact data to the data store. This is prohibited under the Biosecurity Determination. If you feel pressured to do any of these things, you can make a complaint to us (see below), the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, or the Australian Human Rights Commission.

That said - and I'm not advocating that you should install the app if you have concerns about - but you are going to generate friction between you and your employer. You may be in the right, but you may find yourself in a fight.

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    You could avoid the friction by sending an email to HR stating generally that you are concerned the company's email may be violating the policy and for the company's protection they should retract it. I suppose if they then disregard this and a complaint is sent to the government they'll naturally assume you sent it, so you could send this to HR anonymously via a throwaway email. Apr 27 '20 at 3:11
  • "you are going to generate friction between you and your employer" True, and this already great answer could be approved by providing some advice on raising this to an employer, though perhaps that merits a question of its own.
    – Lilienthal
    Apr 27 '20 at 7:07
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    @IllusiveBrian the other option is to simply not install it. Do they do phone inspections or otherwise require you to account for having the app on your phone? An illegal order is an illegal order, and can generally be treated as if it never existed. Apr 27 '20 at 12:12
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    You are going to create lots of friction between you and your fellow employees. I wouldn't want to work with you. If enough people complain and refuse to work with you, your employer might have reason to fire you.
    – gnasher729
    Apr 27 '20 at 15:34
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    To give an example, my Dad was driving on a freeway in California, when a public transit bus started merging into his lane, with him in the lane. He held his ground, until my Mom started yelling at him and when that didn't work, started hitting his shoulder to change out of the lane away from the bus. My Dad insists to this day he would have been right to keep his lane; my Mom insists to this day we would have been dead. You can be right and dead, being right isn't a panacea that cures all ills, or even assures your continued employment. Choose your battles wisely.
    – Edwin Buck
    Oct 28 at 6:57
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Freedom of choice and privacy are very important, I appreciate this.

I know some people have been provided with mobiles from work but not everyone (myself included) and even if I was provided with a work mobile I would still object to installing the app because of my concerns.

You say your concerns are:

Though I don't think it matters to the question, my concerns about the app is not only the obvious potential to track people but also

the Australian Government had security and privacy issues with the roll out of the National Health Record which dimly colours the rollout of this app

I keep my bluetooth off to extend the battery as I live in a remote area and phone reception needs to be boosted at times which already causes enough of a drain

If you asked them for a phone and they issued you with one then the only concern you've listed which remains is that they would be able to track you which is necessary for the tracking app.

If you are resolute that you don't want to do this then you will have to live with the possibility that you did not take a step which means that you could unknowingly transmit the virus which could then go on to kill people.

You probably have legal grounds to refuse but you have to weigh up whether your principles outweigh your moral responsibilities to your fellow human beings and live with your decision and it's your decision.

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    Concur - moving around a lot for work means OP could be an unwitting vector of transfer.
    – Criggie
    Apr 27 '20 at 10:55
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    "If you are resolute that you don't want to do this then you will have to live with the possibility that you did not take a step which means that you could unknowingly transmit the virus which could then go on to kill people." - Installing an application on a mobile phone will not prevent the transmission of a virus. A user must provide accurate data to the application, for it to notify other users, that somebody with symptoms is close by. It also requires both users have their phone on their body. I find this answer extremely troubling.
    – Donald
    Apr 27 '20 at 19:37
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    @Donald I find it more troubling that people are putting minor issues such as worrying about their phone battery being drained than people's lives. I'm in the UK where we have over 20,000 dead and I had to tell my young kids that their grandfather had died and my mother couldn't even go to his funeral as she is vulnerable and self isolating - That was the most horrible moment of my life. There are real lives at stake behind this and if enough people use the app then it will help to slow the spread and it will save lives and stop others having to go through what my family has been through.
    – Old Nick
    Apr 28 '20 at 7:20
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    A phone application will stop the spread of a virus? I won’t be able to convince you of anything.
    – Donald
    Apr 28 '20 at 8:01
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    Testing isn't yet at the level, in my country, where asymptomatic patents are testing for this virus.
    – Donald
    Apr 28 '20 at 13:21
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I know my answer comes a bit late, but I think there is a much better solution than what is suggested in the other answers: Just ignore it. Is there anyone who really thinks an employer would check the phone of each employee to see if a certain app is installed on it? Arguing about this can cause friction, but if it is ignored, the employer will most likely never find out.

I was in a similar situation a few months ago. My employer wanted every employee to take a corona self-test 2 times per week. In my country (the Netherlands) it's explicitly forbidden for employers to force employees to take a self-test. When I saw a package with a corona self-test lying on my desk, I just put it unused in a drawer. A couple of weeks later a questionnaire, regarding corona measures in the office, was sent to everyone. In the questionnaire I (anomynously) pointed out that it's explicitly forbidden to force employees to take a corona self-test. Afterwards I never saw a self-test again in the office.

Please note that I'm not against corona measures in general. I do my part to stop the virus from spreading. Among others I keep distance, I'm vaccinated and I mostly work from home. But I find things like installing a tracking app on my phone or regularly taking a self-test by far too invasive.

Edit after comments:

If your employer does go as far as checking if the app is installed, there are still a couple of options.

  • Say that your personal phone doesn't support the app (as suggested by Oldarick in the comments) or say that you don't have a smartphone.
  • Say that your not able to make the app work on your telephone.
  • Leave your personal phone at home and leave your company phone at work.
  • Turn off bluetooth on your phone.
  • Decline the permissions that the app asks for.

If using the above mentioned excuses don't work on the security people, you could follow up with the following actions:

  • If you have good acting skills: Make a scene at the entrance. Say something like: "Oh no! I wasn't able to make the app work on my phone/I don't have a smart phone. What should I do now? I have this important meeting in ten minutes." And then start crying or panicking. With some luck the security guard will feel uncomfortable and let you pass.
  • Call your boss when you were refused entry and say that you want to comply with the company rules, but that you're not able to. And ask what you should do now. (This puts pressure on your boss. You want to do your work and you 'want' to comply with company rules, but you are prevented from doing your work due to circumstances that aren't your fault.) This might only be a temporary solution, because your boss might for example have someone from the IT department help you out. But the more difficult you make it, while still appearing to be cooperative, the more chance you have of getting away with it.
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    +1 Fully agree this is the best answer for a first step. But counterexample to, "is there anyone who really thinks an employer would check the phone..."; my employer requires a certain app tracking vax status, and it must be shown to front-gate security or we can't get on campus. So it's not entirely unheard of. (Added catch-22: to install this required app we have to check an agreement saying it's voluntary and not required.) Oct 28 at 6:38
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    My backup plan would be to say that my personal phone doesn't support the app. And if I got a work phone, I'd leave it at work.
    – Odalrick
    Oct 28 at 9:03
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    "Is there anyone who really thinks an employer would check the phone of each employee to see if a certain app is installed on it" - Yes. Every employer I've worked with in the last 10+ years performs regular audits on all electronic devices to ensure customer data is appropriately secured. Oct 31 at 18:20
  • You might improve your answer by removing your personal opinion about self-tests. To me it seems ignorant to not participate in one of the easiest and most effective methods to contain the pandemic. Therefore this is distracting.
    – Chris
    Nov 1 at 10:37
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    Complicated lies are rarely a good way to solve problems. Nov 2 at 0:45
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There is no settled law yet in any country that any such "tracking" is legal for any reason whatever. (Never mind that we know that it now occurs for no reason at all.)

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