All States and Territories have issued a Direction or Order for businesses, premises and facilities that have obligations under the Privacy Act to collect personal information for COVID-19 contact tracing purposes.  For instance, some Queensland business sectors must collect the name, phone number, email address, date and time of patronage for all entering their premises, and keep for 56 days, while some South Australian and NSW business sectors must collect a name and a phone number or email, and ACT businesses a name and contact number. Some sectors in Victoria – where there’s been a massive surge in coronavirus cases – must collect the first name and phone number of those visiting longer than 15 minutes and keep for 28 days.

However, despite each state’s advice to businesses to collect contact details from patrons, SafeEntry’s survey reveals that 21 per cent of businesses with customer foot traffic do not use a tracking system at all.

Paper-based contact tracing systems a privacy concern for most patrons

Many pubs, restaurants and cafes are using notebooks, spreadsheets and other paper-based methods – which can be seen by other patrons – to collect customer contact details. For many, this has created fears about privacy breaches and safety concerns. In fact, from the survey, SafeEntry found 40 per cent of business owners said visitors did not feel comfortable giving out their personal details on paper for other visitors to see.

Two-thirds (67 per cent) of businesses said they would be interested in a touchless check-in solution for customers, with an integrated touchless menu display, so they don’t have to worry about record-keeping.

While most coronavirus tracing apps use Bluetooth or GPS technology, the SafeEntry app does not exchange or disclose personal information, mobile numbers, or geolocations between devices. Instead, it uses non-invasive QR Code technology to check in visitors and notifies individuals or organisations if they have been in contact with a self-declared case of COVID-19. The data, which is encrypted with end-to-end TLS 1.2 and 1.3 connections and stored securely in Australia-based data centres, is automatically deleted after 60 days, as per the Australian Government guidelines.

The idea for the app was inspired by psychologist and digital health consultant at Apiro, Linda Manoukian, who, after spending 14 days in hotel quarantine in Australia, found the manual contact tracing process both inefficient and time-consuming for businesses and users alike. As a result, she, along with a core team from Mountain Pass and Apiro, saw an opportunity to implement a digital touchless check-in system that automates the contact tracing process for all Australians.

How SafeEntry works 

Using QR Code technology, SafeEntry enables users to check-in with venues as well as friends, family members, work colleagues and associates quickly and securely. All they need to do is scan a persons’ unique QR code or allow them to scan their code when they meet up. Users can also download individual QR codes for various locations, such as their home and workplace – even their car. To do this, they simply register these locations within the app to obtain the unique QR code that people can start scanning when they enter those locations. Once a QR code is scanned, the device – either a smartphone or tablet – exchanges an anonymised ID, which is then stored securely in an encrypted form on servers in Australia. If a user declares they are infected with COVID-19, the app will notify all people and locations the user has scanned within the last 14 days.

Manoukian says, “With a surge in the number of coronavirus cases in Victoria, and fears that a second wave could permeate throughout other States, it’s more important than ever that business owners can rely on a sophisticated contact tracing resource that can keep themselves and their customers safe.

“Our survey results show that even a paper-based approach for contact tracing is no longer regarded as safe and reliable. Customers feel they need a secure, touchless solution where their personal information can be safely stored. The SafeEntry app helps solve the unreliability – and potential COVID-19 transmission risks – associated with these kinds of tracing systems by offering contactless digital ‘check-in’ for customers when they go to pubs, hotels and other venues.”

Individuals can register to use SafeEntry for free or businesses can subscribe for a monthly fee.