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Source: Privacy Commissioner

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards says the $100 million CovidCard proposal needs further careful consideration before a decision is made to adopt it as a contact tracing solution for Covid-19.

Mr Edwards says any rush to market in the short term would lock New Zealanders into a proposed solution which could in the medium to long run prove ineffective and expensive.

He says there are many unanswered questions as to how the proposal would work. For instance, many New Zealanders would be uncomfortable having to carry a mandated piece of hardware that records all their contacts for the Government.

“This would be a significant legal and cultural change for New Zealand society. The only current obligation to carry any kind of government-mandated card in public is the obligation to carry a driver’s licence while driving.”

He noted that while many other countries are experimenting with a wide variety of quickly adapting software solutions, New Zealand was the only country actively pursuing a universal piece of hardware for distribution to the entire population as a principal means of defence against the virus.

While software solutions could be updated and improved, a CovidCard would not be able to be adapted or improved once it was issued. “It would be based on what we know today, and not what we can learn tomorrow about the virus, its spread, and advances in tracing technology.”

Mr Edwards says there are also considerable logistical obstacles to ensuring that the cards went to every adult. “We do not have a population register in New Zealand. Probably the closest and most accurate record of individuals is maintained by Inland Revenue, but even IRD struggles to maintain up-to-date address details.”

He says when his office sees more answers to how CovidCard would be implemented, he would be willing to lend his support to this innovative proposal.

Read the Privacy Commissioner’s blog post on the CovidCard here.

For more information, contact Charles Mabbett – 021 509 735.