Contact tracing has proven to be a successful way to help stop or slow the spread of COVID-19, but its success relies on the accurate collection of community members’ contact details. QR codes are being used as a contactless and effective way of collecting community members’ details so that you can be contacted if you have come into close contact with somebody who has tested positive for COVID-19.
In this guide we take a look at QR codes: what they are, how to scan them and things to look out for.
What is a QR code?
QR (Quick Response) codes are those black and white square barcodes you see at the entrance of many places like shops, cafés and restaurants. Your smartphone’s camera ‘scans’ or ‘reads’ the barcode then takes you to a new web page.
QR technology has been around since the 90s and became common in advertising as an easy way for advertisers to direct people to product websites without the need to type out the web address.
Today QR codes are more commonly used by many businesses as a contactless way to check-in. However, they are becoming increasingly popular and are being used in other areas like eScripts, or electronic prescriptions, and even a way to pay your bills.
How to scan QR codes
You need a smartphone with a camera.
- Open your camera app.
- Point your camera at the QR code as if you are about to take a picture of it.
- If your device recognises the code, a link will appear at the top of your screen. Tap on the link when it appears. At this point you may be asked to download your state government’s check-in app.
- Enter your contact details.
When you download your state government’s check in app, you only need to enter your details once. It will then remember your details for next time you check in. You also have the option to add the name of any ‘guests’ or ‘dependants’ who are with you. This makes for a quick and easy check-in process.
If a link doesn’t appear at the top of your screen
If you have an older phone and it’s having trouble reading QR codes, try downloading a QR code reader from the official Apple App Store or Google Play for Android phones. Look out for QR code readers that have a high rating from as many people as possible.
What if I don’t have a smartphone?
Don’t worry if you don’t have a smartphone, there will be an alternative way for you to provide your details. You can either ask the person you’re with to check-in for you or speak to a staff member for help.
Why checking-in is important
Contact tracing teams need your details to get in touch with you if they discover you have visited the same place as somebody else who tested positive for COVID-19. The contact tracing process helps to slow or stop the spread of the disease.
Advantages of using QR codes for checking-in
QR codes are a more effective way of collecting personal details over paper records. They’re ‘contactless’, so there’s no need to touch pens and paper that have been handled by other people. Also, paper records can sometimes be difficult to read and people’s personal details can often be left on show for others to see.
How will my data be managed?
The state government check-in apps only collect the information they need to contact you, like your name, phone number and/or email address. Your details are then stored for 28 days before being destroyed.
In most states it’s mandatory for businesses to use the state government QR code system, but there may be some businesses that use their own system to collect your details.
These businesses should be following the rules and guidelines set out by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner to help keep your information private, including:
- Businesses must ensure your data is stored confidentially and securely.
- Venues should not ask you for more information than is required for contact tracing, like your date of birth.
- The data needs to be destroyed once the information is no longer needed.
- They should be providing the data only to health authorities for contact tracing when/if needed.
Things to look out for
Businesses that use their own QR code system to collect your details should be following privacy guidelines, however you can still do your bit to help protect your personal information.
- Don’t offer up more information than you need to. Remember, businesses should only be collecting your details for contact tracing, so they don’t need more than your name, phone number and/or email address.
- Read check-in questions carefully and look for check boxes that ask whether you would like to receive marketing information from the venue/organisation. If the box is already ticked, untick it – unless of course you would like to hear more from them.
- Ask for an alternative way to check-in if you’re not comfortable with the additional information being asked of you.
This post was updated on 24th October 2022.