NZ COVID Tracer
|Initial release||May 20, 2020|
1.0.2 / 20 May 2020
|Operating system||Android, iOS|
|Platform||Amazon Web Services|
NZ COVID Tracer is a mobile software application that enables a person to record places they have visited, in order to facilitate tracing who may have been in contact with a person infected with the COVID-19 virus. The app allows users to scan official QR codes at the premises of businesses and other organisations they visit, to create a digital diary. It was launched by New Zealand's Ministry of Health on 20 May 2020, during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It can be downloaded from App Store and Google Play.
The NZ COVID Tracer app was developed for the Ministry of Health by New Zealand company Rush Digital and partially relies on an Amazon Web Services platform. It was formally launched on 20 May 2020. Some people were able to download it from App Store on 19 May and a Health Ministry spokesperson said later that it had been submitted to App Store and Google Play that evening and that there can be a variation in time between submitting an app and it going live. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the NZ COVID Tracer app as a "digital diary". It worked on mobile devices using Android 7.0 or above, and Apple iOS 12 or above, with future updates to include support for older systems.
Immediately following its release, several users encountered difficulties with logging into the app or using it. There were also complaints from the public about iPhones and Android phones running the older, incompatible versions of operating systems being unable to download the app. The Ministry advised people without a compatible mobile device to keep a manual record of the people and places they have visited for contact tracing purposes. The app received an average rating of 2.6 on Google Play Store, with most complaints relating to its poor design and difficulty with finding the app. As of 20 May, more than 92,000 people had downloaded the app and over 1,000 businesses had signed up to it.
On 12 June, Stuff reported that many businesses were finding the app clunky to use and had to rely upon secondary apps. A poll conducted on Neighbourly found that less that 37% of respondents had downloaded the COVID Tracer app due to privacy concerns, lack of access to a smartphone, and confusion about how to use it. By 17 June, the Ministry of Health reported that 562,000 people had registered with the COVID Tracer app. 56,552 posters displaying the official QR codes had been created. There have been 1,035,154 poster scans to date.
The Ministry of Health released a new version of the app on 30 July 2020 that could be used on phones running Android 6 or iOS 11.
The NZ COVID Tracer app allows users to scan official Ministry of Health QR codes at businesses, public buildings and other organisations to track where they have been, for contact tracing purposes. People can also register their contact tracing details on the official NZ COVID Tracer website. Information on people's movements will be stored for 31 days by the Ministry of Health, which uses Amazon Web Services in Sydney to store the data, before being automatically deleted.
First-time users are required to enter their name, phone number, email address and create a password. They will then receive a six digit code that allows them to complete the registration process. The app also allows users to store their contact details and physical address, which is provided to the National Close Contact Service (NCCS) in order to facilitate contact tracing in the event that the user is identified as a close contact of someone who has contracted COVID-19. The COVID Tracer app also supports two-factor authentication.
On 10 June, the Government announced that it would be updating the NZ COVID Tracer app to allow the app to contact users who may have been exposed to Covid-19 and giving them the option of voluntarily sending their location history to public health officials.
Privacy and oversight
The NZ COVID Tracer app was developed by the Ministry of Health in consultation with the Privacy Commissioner and has also undergone independent security testing. Any personal information and contact details registered on the Tracer app are provided to the National Close Contact Service. This information is retained for public health purposes only and is not shared with agencies outside the health sector. Any information entered through the Tracer app including the locations that users sign into is stored securely on the phone and automatically deleted after 31 days. Users have the right to share information with contact tracers.
Notes and references
- "NZ COVID Tracer app questions and answers". Health.govt.nz. Ministry of Health. Archived from the original on 20 May 2020. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
- "NZ COVID Tracer app". Ministry of Health. Archived from the original on 19 May 2020. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
- "Covid-19 tracing app launched earlier than expected". Radio New Zealand. 19 May 2020. Archived from the original on 20 May 2020. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
- Hutt, Kendall (20 May 2020). "Coronavirus: NZ Covid Tracer app unavailable on older iPhones or Google Play". Stuff. Archived from the original on 21 May 2020. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
- "Covid 19 coronavirus: 'Digital diary' tracing app trips up; users unable to log on, 'can't use it'". New Zealand Herald. 20 May 2020. Archived from the original on 20 May 2020. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
- Palmer, Scott (20 May 2020). "Review: The New Zealand COVID tracer app". Newshub. Archived from the original on 21 May 2020. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
- "More than 92,000 people already registered on NZ tracing app - Bloomfield". Radio New Zealand. 20 May 2020. Archived from the original on 21 May 2020. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
- Trigger, Sophie (12 June 2020). "'Clunky' government covid app used 'minimally' in Marlborough, businesses say". Stuff. Archived from the original on 14 June 2020. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
- "320 people being checked as 'close contacts' of the two new covid-19 patients". Scoop. 17 June 2020. Archived from the original on 17 June 2020. Retrieved 17 June 2020.
- "Update to NZ COVID Tracer mobile app released" (Press release). Ministry of Health. Scoop. 30 July 2020. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
- Daalder, Marc (10 June 2020). "Govt able to use app to notify those exposed to Covid-19". Newsroom. Archived from the original on 10 June 2020. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
- "NZ COVID Tracer app & daily numbers update". New Zealand Doctor. 10 June 2020. Archived from the original on 14 June 2020. Retrieved 14 June 2020.