In an effort to establish better contact tracing, the NSW government has made QR code check-ins mandatory in all venues across the state. It came into effect on November 23.
Sign-in protocols at venues have become a staple in recent months as COVID restrictions have steadily allowed a return to public life. So how exactly does this new system work in NSW?
How does the NSW digital check-in system work?
The NSW government has mandated that all venues in the state use an electronic check-in system. Venues must digitally record names and contact details of all visitors who enter the premises.
The easy way to enforce this, which many venues have already adopted, is the use of a QR code. Customers are able to easily scan a QR code on their phone which automatically links them to the venue’s preferred webform, where they can submit their details.
This differs from some previous contact tracing methods which allowed venues to provide a physical sign-in sheet with a pen and paper. The move makes sense seeing as details can easily be mistaken through handwriting. Plus it saves the extra effort of venue staff converting the paper information to a digital format for submission later.
However, this has raised concerns for patrons who do not own a suitable mobile device.
A Service NSW spokesperson told the ABC that some of these options may include “completing an online form on a tablet or other device, or entering your details into an Excel spreadsheet.”
Some of the venues required to enforce the digital check-in rule in NSW include amusement parks, beauty and nail salons, entertainment facilities, hospitality venues, pubs and small bars, public swimming pools, zoos, function centres and drive-in cinemas.
Data and privacy concerns
Questions have also been asked about where the personal data from these digital check-ins goes.
Somewhat similar to the federal government’s COVIDSafe app, Service NSW offers its own QR Code check-in option for customers. This allows patrons to check in to a business via the Service NSW app on their own device, provided that the venue uses the established NSW government QR code. The app will then alert the user, via phone or email, if there’s an outbreak somewhere that they have checked into.
Checking in with the Service NSW app also only records the location of the business and time of visit, according to the website. The information is stored for 28 days and is used only for contact tracing purposes before it is destroyed.
There have been concerns recently over the security protocols protecting the data of outsourced QR check-in websites.
“There is no quality control over those QR providers in relation to privacy protections. The venues that hire them have no strong incentive to enforce what they do with their privacy protections and governments have abdicated from setting required standards for QR providers.” Graham Greenleaf, professor of law and information systems at UNSW, said during a panel hosted by Deakins University.
The Service NSW check-in app is the government’s alternative for venues instead of using third party platforms that may be insecure or used for data mining.
It’s unclear whether the digital check-in rule will become mandatory in other Australian states, but many venues are already enforcing these guidelines anyway.