In This Issue


COVIDSafe is the government’s COVID-19 contact tracing app and is out now

Australia's coronavirus contact tracing app is now available to download and is called COVIDSafe. As previously mentioned, it's a homegrown variant of Singapore's TraceTogether app that uses the BlueTrace protocol. When COVIDSafe is running it scans and records the other COVIDSafe users around you via Bluetooth and if you've been within a 1.5m radius of someone for more than 15 minutes, they become a "contact". That randomised unique ID is then stored in a database run by the government (hosted by AWS on Australian servers) that only the state health departments can access when a contact has tested positive for COVID-19. Data is deleted every 21 days and geolocation data is not collected. The aim of the app is to "find and contain outbreaks quickly" so "governments can ease restrictions". The government wants 40% of Australians to run it and over 1.13 million people, about 4% of Australia's population, has already installed it. It does not use Google and Apple's tracing framework, but may be updated soon to use them.

Should I install it? Some hot takes on COVIDSafe so you can make up your mind

Every nerd in Australia has an opinion on COVIDSafe, fueled by the horrors they've witnessed on previous government IT projects. The Department of Health commissioned Maddocks to do a privacy impact assessment (the Australian Privacy Foundation reckons it’s a shit report) available here as a PDF. They want the source code released ASAP, along with legislation enshrining the things government has said it won't do with this app (coerce people to use it, share the data with other departments, etc.). Chris Culnane, Eleanor McMurtry, Robert Merkel and Vanessa Teague decompiled the app and took a deep dive into the technical aspects. Geoffrey Huntley set up this Google Doc and a Discord channel to collaborate on investigating COVIDSafe. Personally, I agree with Steve Wilson's post. Yeah, COVIDSafe isn't perfect and could have been so much better, but it doesn't suck and I trust that the public health people believe this app and the data it collects can make a significant impact towards getting our lives back to normal - cut them some slack. I haven't installed COVIDSafe yet as I'm not going outside any time soon so I'll will wait for the dust to settle before I put it on my iPhone and re-assess then. The code is not available yet, but will be made available in a few weeks time.

Optus facing class action lawsuit because they published 50,000 silent numbers in the White Pages

Law firm Maurice Blackburn has kicked off the first privacy breach related class action in Australia, on behalf of 50,000 Optus customers that had their details published in the White Pages accidentally. People that didn't want their name, address and phone number made public ended up having their details put online, in the phone book and copied by other directory services - all because Optus fucked up. The law firm said that "it's time for companies to be held accountable for this. Bad practices in data management can have real-world consequences for people, and to make companies understand that, we will need to start taking them to court". Amen to that.

Not News

New i9 Intel NUC is small but powerful and lets you install a proper GPU

Intel's latest NUC is bigger than previous NUCs, but still tiny considering the specs inside. The NUC9i9QNX packs a 45W i9-9980HK 8-core CPU that can turbo up to 5GHz. Interestingly, it sits on a "Compute Element" that's basically a mainboard in a PCIe x16 card form factor. Your RAM & SSDs (there's two M.2 slots & two SO-DIMM slots) are also on this board. I think the idea is you could upgrade your NUC by replacing the compute element but leaving the rest of the chassis in place. Being larger than a traditional NUC means you can install a proper GPU (if it's not too long) in this thing yet still be overall smaller than the smallest ITX box. I guess this i9 NUC is good if you're really short on space but need a lot of performance and don't want a laptop?


🎶 Eighties - Killing Joke

😁 The Sizzle is curated by Anthony "@decryption" Agius and emailed every weekday afternoon. Join us on Slack and chat with other Sizzle subscribers.

The Sizzle is created on Wathaurong land and acknowledges the traditional owners of country throughout Australia, recognising their continuing connection to land, water and community. I pay my respect to them and their cultures and to elders both past and present.​