People who won’t use COVID-19 app are worse than sunbakers

 

I will absolutely download the contact tracing app, Covid Safe; I can barely think of anything more important right now.

All we've been asked to do so far is stay home and watch Netflix, not put our lives at risk by flying out to war like our brave Anzacs did, so the strength of reluctance I've perceived slightly baffles me.

Polls indicate we might struggle to get to the 40 per cent needed to make the app effective.

Platitudes of 'lest we forget' over the weekend were meaningless unless you're willing to honour those who died in battle by acting in the national interest, for the greater good.

Downloading the app isn't giving away our freedom. It's bringing us a crucial step closer to it.

I'll download it because at this time of unprecedented national emergency, we all have to make sacrifices and pool our collective will to stop the spread and its appalling consequences.

And I'll download it because I'm not a hypocrite.

The smug glee with which officious jobsworths have enthusiastically shamed those they believe to be breaking social distancing measures has alarmed me.

My local area Facebook group includes a message saying "Does anyone know the best place to report people blatantly ignoring social distancing measures in our area?" followed by a long list of people complaining and encouraging they dob them to the police.

Two guys sun bake at Clovelly Beach in Sydney. The public has been asked to adhere to the strict social distancing guidelines put in place by the government to combat the spread of COVID-19 as well as only using the beach to exercise. Picture: Richard Dobson / News Corp
Two guys sun bake at Clovelly Beach in Sydney. The public has been asked to adhere to the strict social distancing guidelines put in place by the government to combat the spread of COVID-19 as well as only using the beach to exercise. Picture: Richard Dobson / News Corp

Those very same people are posting to the same group saying they'll refuse to download the app and discouraging others from doing so. It's eye-watering hypocrisy.

They're not interested in collective action. They're interested in feeling sanctimonious. It's pathetic.

While sunbathing is naughty - it blatantly shouldn't be happening - in no way is the lone sunbather as detrimental to the national effort than those refusing to download the app and discouraging others to do so.

I wouldn't dob on someone for not downloading the app - it's voluntary. That proves we live in a free society.

But I would say this: even a data breach isn't as bad as people dying. This is a time to think about us us us, not me me me. I've given my phone number to men far dodgier than my local state or territory health official. Ahem. (Sorry 'Dave Grindr', but it's true).

 

I've also allowed less transparent companies access to my data *cough, Facebook, cough*

We shouldn't necessarily come from the starting point that data will be breached. Organisations such as Digital Rights Watch are already pushing the government hard on safeguards - as they should.

The app merely traces who you've been 1.5 metres away from for 15 minutes or longer via Bluetooth so, if you get diagnosed, those people get a message recommending they get tested.

Police check on beach-goers and ask those not exercising to move on. Picture: Jeremy Piper
Police check on beach-goers and ask those not exercising to move on. Picture: Jeremy Piper

 

The information is encrypted securely, the government tells us.

They also tell us no geolocation is stored, the data will be destroyed when the pandemic is over, and there's no hidden agenda.

And, perhaps counterintuitively, I believe them.

I didn't vote for this government and I don't always trust this government, but I absolutely back them on this.

Whatever I think of them, I wholeheartedly believe their motive is in the interests of the health of Australians, not to put the likes of me under surveillance.

There absolutely should be legislated limits, checks and balances on safeguarding our data. But if these fail, I won't die. I'll be disgruntled. That's how high the stakes are.

No, we don't want a slippery slope into totalitarianism. But, come on. Let's get some perspective, or we risk sensing tyranny on every tainted breeze.

Besides, if ever in my lifetime there was a moment to risk giving up some of my civil liberties to help others, now is it.

The benefits of the app outweigh the negatives. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
The benefits of the app outweigh the negatives. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

And what's the worst that could happen if you download it? One of the common complaints in Singapore was that keeping bluetooth on eroded phone battery.

The worst that could happen if you don't download? Longer lockdown. More deaths. Doctors burnt out.

There's a good argument that if you don't download the tracing app, you should stay in lockdown.

It'll also prove who is true to their word about actually supporting our healthcare professionals. It's one thing standing at a doorway clapping (perhaps awkwardly like Charles and Camilla) for doctors and nurses. But what they need more than these symbolic gestures is for you to download the app to prevent their hospitals becoming overwhelmed and their workloads unfeasible.

It's cute people have applied Facebook profile pic filters staying 'stay at home.' But we all know that by now. We now need to get more sophisticated with our messaging. The new social media badge of honour should be 'I downloaded the app' - to encourage trust via peer proofing - not the peer policing of iso-shamers.

So yes, downloading the app remains voluntary. I hear your data concerns. You do not have to download it. But if you don't, I reserve my right to a Charles and Camilla inspired slow clap.

Gary Nunn is a columnist with Rendezview.com.au

Originally published as People who won't use COVID-19 app are worse than sunbakers