Letter: COVID check-in and personal data

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has concerns with the potential for sharing of personal and health information collected using the ServiceNSW check in tool.

The following correspondence, addressing our concerns, was sent to Minister Dominello, Department Customer Services. Similar letters were sent to Minister Hazzard and Minister Elliott.


3 February 2021

The Hon. Victor Dominello M.P. Minister for Customer Services [email protected]


Dear Minister Dominello,

Personal information collected by Service NSW check in tool may be used for law enforcement

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) calls on the Minister to provide assurances to the people of NSW, that the COVID-19 Safe Check-in and Service NSW web check-in tool (Check-in tool) will be used solely for the stated purpose of contact tracing. NSWCCL also seeks assurances that information collected from the Check-in tool has not been used for law enforcement purposes or any other additional purpose.

Since 1 January 2021, s. 36(3) (a1) of the Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order (No 7) (PHO), mandates that people who enter a hospitality venue or hairdressing salon must register their contact details electronically with Service NSW, generally using QR codes. The Check-in tool Privacy Collection Statement (Statement) assures that the information is for contact tracing purposes though also for the broader purpose of otherwise protecting the health and welfare of members of the public.(1) Such broad purpose could enable the sharing of health information with police or for any other number of additional, loosely linked purposes not anticipated by the public.

The Statement is to be read in conjunction with the Service NSW Privacy Policy (Policy) which covers further information about how Service NSW protects the privacy of Check-in tool details. (2)

The Policy states that, your personal information “will normally be used for the primary reason that it was collected for or a directly related secondary purpose. It may also be used in an emergency situation to help prevent a serious and imminent threat to life or health, or for law enforcement purposes, or where we are authorised or required to do so by law”. (3)

NSWCCL strongly opposes the use of information gathered for health purposes being used for law enforcement or any other additional purpose.

We have already seen that the Singapore TraceTogether App, on which the COVIDSafe App was based, can be accessed by police in the course of a criminal investigation.(4) This is despite explicit assurances that the App would only be used for contact tracing.

NSWCCL has long held concerns over the manner of the use, collection, and storage of personal information of NSW citizens by the NSW government. The damning NSW Auditor General Report released on 18 December 2020 criticised the effectiveness of Service NSW’s handling of customers’ personal information to ensure privacy.

The NSW government should be assuring NSW citizens in explicit terms that information gathered will be used only for its primary purpose. Further, the management of the Check-in tool needs to be enacted in primary legislation, not just in an Order.

Yours sincerely

Michelle Falstein

NSW Council for Civil Liberties

1 See Personal Information, Privacy Collection Statement https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/covid-safe-check- privacy-collection-statement
2 See last paragraph, Privacy Collection Statement ibid
3 See Using Your Information, Service NSW Privacy Policy https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/privacy
4 Han, K (11 Jan 2021) Broken promises: How Singapore lost trust on contact tracing privacy MIT Technology Review https://www.technologyreview.com/2021/01/11/1016004/singapore-tracetogether-contact-tracing- police/ng- police/