Worried SAs speak: Covid Alert SA App – to download or not to download?

There has been a fierce debate raging on the internet ever since President Cyril Ramaphosa encouraged South Africans to download the Covid Alert SA App. Put simply, it’s a free mobile app which uses Bluetooth contact-tracing technology to let people know if they have been in contact with someone who has Covid-19. However, many South Africans are skeptical of the technology, with some claiming it’s another way for ‘big brother’ to keep an eye on us and collect our data.

BizNews founder Alec Hogg spoke to Emma Sadleir, a leading expert on privacy and data. Sadleir said she would appeal to everyone to download the app because it could be the only way to contain the epidemic.

“From a privacy law point of view, I don’t see any reason that people should be nervous that big brother is watching us and that this is going to have huge privacy concerns. It takes very little personal information. It is an entirely anonymous app, which means that any of those privacy concerns that people have out there surely should be very small, if any.”

“It relies on your Bluetooth. The app doesn’t collect any personal information. It doesn’t collect your name, it doesn’t collect your email address, your phone number. No location is collected or stored. All it does is that it tells you if within the previous 14 days you’ve come into contact with somebody who has voluntarily disclosed that they have tested positive. It doesn’t tell you who that person is. It doesn’t tell you exactly where that exposure took place. It just tells you that on a specific day you came into close contact with somebody who was tested positive.”

Our community members told us what they think and the room is certainly divided.

I won’t download the app

“Downloading this app is madness. This virus has shown, above all else, the ability for the population to lose their logical minds, and to show governments just how easy it is to manipulate and control the population. How does a government have the ability to tell someone they cannot work to earn a living? This boggles my mind. The fact that the media pushes a narrative, and plays on people’s paranoia, which then gets public by in (stasi, gestapo) to control and punish people not listening and obeying, has shown me how easily manipulated people are. L Ron Hubbard’s quote about starting a religion springs to mind. No, I will not download the app. No I will not adhere to regulations that prevent me from making a living, and no, I will not listen to the paranoid. I have no fear of this virus, or any other, nor have I a fear of death. What I do fear, is not living life while I’m actually alive. People seem to have missed that.”

Read also: How the Covid-19 alert app works in SA – govt expert

agrees, saying downloading the app will become mandatory. “‘This app is not tracking you, but a phone.’ Your phone’s IMEI number + your RICA documents with your service provider = you. Your phone’s location is trackable by same service providers. Maybe the gvnmt will give them discounts on 5G spectrums… This app is NOT voluntary if you want/need to travel. Along a similar trend, it may become mandatory to run this app just to leave your house. Your fear may bring you to compromise your standards, but please don’t try to convince us you’ve made the right choice.”

Commenting on the BizNews Facebook pageMark M Wade says: “Firstly, I want to know who designed the app, and secondly, what’s the relevance. We’ve been released from a hard lockdown for months, and are back at work, back at school, in shopping centres and on public transport. We’ve all been exposed to thousands of people, who’ve been exposed to thousands more. Expecting us at this stage of the virus presence, six months down the line, to suddenly ‘need’ this app is extremely suspicious, and everything the ANC is suspicious by nature. Who can guarantee that our phones can’t be remotely accessed, with all the data, information, passwords, messages, and browsing history intercepted? I don’t trust the ANC, and don’t trust their intentions.”

Read also: Covid Alert SA app: How it works, why it won’t steal your personal information – experts explain

Just get the app

The tinfoil brigade is already out in full force based on the current Facebook status doing the rounds claiming that the App will essentially steal your entire contact list with all your friends’ details.”

Are you OK with passing the virus on to others? Including family, friends and colleagues? If so, you’re a very special type of person! Actually, you are in dire need of intelligence/knowledge injection, but I suspect that this is not your worldview…”

Andrew Worrall reckons the app can do no further harm. “Cell phone companies and Google etc all have our data and details anyway.”

Judy Coetzee and Pete Du Toit had it out on Facebook: 

Facebook comments on covid app
Facebook ccomments on mobile app

Which school of thought will prevail?

In her interview with BizNews, Sadleir said the app will not only help us get closer to normal life again, but it will also prevent us from unwittingly making others ill. “This will allow us to live our lives as normally as possible because we will have the comfort of quick notification. It’s immediate. It’s not like we have to go through the list of every person we come across. Immediately, you get a pop-up on your phone saying you’ve been exposed on this day and then you can take the steps required.”

“It’s selflessness, but it’s also allowing me to be selfish because it allows me to go on with my normal life and be exposed to people that I don’t know with the comfort of knowing that I will be notified if there is any potential exposure. For me, it’s a no brainer. Exposure notification and early exposure notification is really absolutely critical to how we contain this epidemic going forward. The technology is there and let’s use it.”

  • Add your voice to the debate. Will you download the app? 
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