COVID-19 conspiracy theorists and anti-lockdown groups across Australia are using a fake check-in app to avoid complying with contact-tracing regulations, according to The Guardian Australia.
The app — which Gizmodo Australia has chosen not to name, as to not further promote it — has been shared on Telegram groups with more than 15,000 followers and anti-COVID conspiracy theory websites as a way to avoid actually checking in.
As it currently stands, Australians are legally required to check-in when entering shops and other public places in an effort to assist with contact tracing during COVID-19 outbreaks.
The app mimics the official COVID check-in apps available in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland (see: the three states with the worst spread of the highly-contagious Delta variant right now), thus allowing users to appear as though they have checked in, without actually providing that critical data to the government.
“The government is stealing our personal data every time you scan into their Covid QR code,” one conspiracy theory website falsely claims.
“This information is stored in a database operated by the government. We don’t know who has access to that data, or what happens to it. We have already seen that the government is incapable of keeping our information private.”
The website, which is actively telling people how to flout the check-in requirement, asserts that “sometimes we just want to go into a premises without arguing with the business owner.”
The fake apps essentially rely on the fact that shopkeepers, who are quite literally just trying to do their job and keep everyone safe, won’t be able to distinguish the real check-in from a fake one.
Deakin University epidemiology chair Catherine Bennett stressed to The Guardian that deliberately avoiding COVID check-ins can be detrimental to the country’s efforts to quash the Delta outbreaks.
“Every time we slow down the identification of people at risk of infection, we potentially expose many more and the outbreak grows,” Bennett said. “Every time a case goes undetected in the community, we end up with not only more cases, but more infected people that won’t even be aware they have been exposed, so they won’t be tested until they are sick themselves.”
It probably goes without saying at this point, but checking in every time you enter a business is the best way to contribute to contact tracing efforts and (hopefully) prevent further lockdowns. These QR codes are developed in the interest of public health and safety, not as some ploy to steal your data.