COVIDSafe installation counts or statistics

Chris F made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Health

Response to this request is delayed. By law, Department of Health should normally have responded promptly and by (details)

From: Chris F

Delivered

Dear Department of Health,

Under Freedom of Information Act 1982 I request the following:

Any documents containing:

* dates,
* installation counts,
* operating system details,
* other statistics, charts or reports.

relating to the COVIDSafe mobile tracing application.

This can be limited to after the public release date of 26th April 2020.

An agency or minister may impose a charge for providing access to a document under s29 of the FOI Act.

As this has been reported in the news daily, I request that the Department waive any charges applicable to this request, on the basis that the release of these documents would be in the public interest (s29(5)(b))

Please also note as this is timely information, if requested no extension would be granted under s15AA.

Yours faithfully,

Chris

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From: FOI
Department of Health


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Dear XX,

I am writing to notify you that on 29 April 2020, the Department of Health
(department) received your request for access to documents under the
Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (FOI Act) as follows:

‘Any documents containing:

* dates,

* installation counts,

* operating system details,

* other statistics, charts or reports.

relating to the COVIDSafe mobile tracing application.

 

This can be limited to after the public release date of 26th April 2020.’

 

Request for extension of time

 

The department is actively processing your request and is aiming to
finalise it as quickly as possible. However, the department is currently
experiencing an increased workload to manage and respond to the
coronavirus pandemic, with a large amount of resources being diverted to
do so. The content of your request means that any documents that exist
would sit with the line area who has responsibility for the department’s
continued response to the coronavirus.

 

On this basis, the department is seeking an extension of 30 calendar days,
with a decision to be provided to you no later than COB 28 June 2020.

 

Next Steps

 

Could you please advise the department by COB Tuesday, 5 May 2020 if you
agree to the request for extension of time?

 

Kind regards

FOI Team - FOI and Legislation Support Section

[1]cid:image003.png@01D51610.1D98D220

Legal & Assurance Division |  Corporate Operations Group

Legal Advice & Legislation Branch

Australian Government Department of Health

T: 02 6289 1666  | E: [2][email address

GPO Box 9848, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia

 

The Department of Health acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of
Australia and their continued connection to land, sea and community. We
pay our respects to all Elders past and present. 

 

If you receive this email in error, please delete it and contact the
sender immediately.

 

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From: Chris F

Delivered

Dear FOI,

As stated in my original email.

"Please also note as this is timely information, if requested no extension would be granted under s15AA."

On this basis and the timeliness of the original request, I do not agree to an extension of time.

Yours sincerely,

Chris

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From: Carl English


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Our reference: RQ20/01604

Agency reference: FOI 1681

Mr Chris F.

Sent by email: [FOI #6322 email]

Extension of time application by the Department of Health

Dear Chris

I write to advise that on 6 May 2020 the Office of the Australian
Information Commissioner (the OAIC) received an application from
Department of Health (the Department) for an extension of time, to
process your FOI request.

The Department has applied for an extension of time under s 15AB of the
Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) because your request is considered
to be complex.

The Department has advised the OAIC that:

o The Department has experienced a significant impact on its resources
generally as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Department has
received a large volume of requests in relation to COVID-19.
o The line area responsible to conducting searches in relation to the
request currently does not the resources required as a result of
COVID-19.
o the decision maker for this request is currently unavailable due to
their national incident room responsibilities

The Department has requested an extension to 28 June 2020. I will take
any comments you may have to make into account when deciding the
application.

Please respond to this email by close of business 10 May 2020. If I do not
hear from you by this date, I will proceed to make a decision on the basis
of the information provided to me by the Department.

You will be notified of the decision once the matter has been finalised.

Further information about extension of time requests may be found on our
website at [1]FOI Fact Sheet 16 - Extensions of time.

Contact

If you have any questions, please contact me on 02 9284 9745 or via email
[email address]. In all correspondence please include the
reference number at the top of this email.

Yours sincerely

[2]cid:image001.jpg@01D446AF.83C3DEE0   Carl English  | Review Adviser (Legal)

Freedom of Information Dispute
Resolution

Office of the Australian Information
Commissioner

GPO Box 5218 Sydney NSW 2001  |
 [3]oaic.gov.au

+61 2 9284 9745  | 
[4][email address]
[5]cid:image002.png@01D446AF.83C3DEE0 | [6]cid:image003.png@01D446AF.83C3DEE0 | [7]cid:image004.png@01D446AF.83C3DEE0 |   [8]cid:image005.png@01D446AF.83C3DEE0  

 

[9][IMG]

 

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References

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From: Chris F

Delivered

Hi Carl,

For easier reading, please find a fully formatted PDF version on Microsoft Onedrive link:

https://1drv.ms/b/s!AsrWJy_3WCc4ij6RoT4C...

Otherwise full text of my response is below.

Regards,

Chris

---------------------------

Dear Carl,

Thankyou for your email regarding the request for extension by the Department of Health for my FOI request.

I acknowledge that due to the current COVID-19 situation there is additional strain on the department, however I ask that you make decision to reject the request and retain the original timeline.

The reasons are as follows:

* The department has not followed FOI guidelines for extensions under s 15AB;
* No evidence was supplied that it was either complex or voluminous;
* I believe there is a strong public interest in the results of the request;
* I believe the request is time-sensitive, as it relates to decisions being made currently and will be of less use the further it is delayed.

My request is very narrow in its parameters as I am after summary information only. I am very open to work with the department to clarify and narrow any part of the request that they see to be too wide - as I do not require low level information.

I will state my reasons for disallowing the extension below and ask again that you keep the original timeline for the request.

Regards,

Chris

FOI GUIDELINES

1. s 15AB(1) states that an extension request can be made:

"if the agency or Minister considers that the period is insufficient to deal adequately with a request because the request is complex or voluminous."

While this does point to resources in "period is insufficient, it also has a mandatory requirement that the request is either complex or voluminous. Lack of resources alone is not sufficient for an extension to be granted under this section.

2. I will state in other parts of my response below as to why my request is neither complex nor voluminous.

3. In the FOI Guidelines it states in s 3.147 (ref#1):

An agency or minister applying to the Information Commissioner for an extension of time under s 15AB should explain why the applicant's FOI request is complex or voluminous, including details about:
• the scope of the request and the range of documents covered
• work already undertaken on the request
• any consultation with the applicant concerning length of time
• whether other agencies or parties have an interest in the request
• measures to be taken by the agency or minister to ensure a decision is made within the extended time period and to keep the applicant informed about progress.

While the department has provided evidence of consultation that they requested an extension under s 15AA, the department have not provided any explanation in their request as to "scope and range" as to why this falls under s 15AB, any work undertaken, whether "other agencies or parties" have an interest requiring additional time for consultation with those agencies, and also they have not indicated how they will use the extended time to fulfill the request. Due to the reasons above provided to the commissioner, I do not believe this to be a genuine request under s 15AB.

4. The department must provide measurable/quantifiable explanations and justifications as to why a matter is either complex or voluminous.

5. The complex or voluminous nature of my request also must be real and not purely hypothetical.

VOLUMINOUS

6. I will provide a brief explanation as to what my estimation would be of documents that will fall under my request:

a) A member of staff will log into the Google Developer Portal once per day and either download or write down statistics for the day including counts of installs, uninstalls, reviews, ratings and possible other related data.

b) A member of staff will log into the Apple Developer Portal once per day and either download or write down statistics for the day including counts of installs, uninstalls, reviews, ratings and possible other related data.

c) A member of staff will log into the COVIDSafe administration portal once per day and download or write down statistics for total registration requestions and successful registration requests.

d) This member of staff will then place this summary information into a spreadsheet and/or chart and send a group email within the department including grand totals. The information in its summary form may alternatively skip a spreadsheet / chart, and go directly to a group email.

7. Based on my estimated summary, I see no more than a couple of documents being produced per day over the time-period of the request.

8. I also believe that searches for the documents will be able to be carried out by a single search per document type. These documents are repeatedly carried out daily meaning the same keyword / search terms will be used in repeated emails and document locations will be in the same place. These documents would not be produced in an ad hoc manner with different locations every time they are created. They are produced from the same source, processed in the same way, and sent to the same destination each day.

9. The time-period for this request is from 26 April 2020 to the date of the request being actioned. If actioned in a prompt manner, this will cover a span of less than 20 days. If actioned on the last day, the time span increases to 5 weeks. If the extension is granted, the time-period extends to over 9 weeks vastly increasing the amount of work required. It is in the department's best interest to action this promptly eliminating any extra documents produced as time progresses.

10. For a definition of voluminous I refer to Victoria's insertion of "severe disruption" section in their FOI Act. In the Second Reading Speech for the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill 1993 (ref#2), the Attorney-General in reference to voluminous requests states:

"Most agencies could produce numerous examples of applicants who abuse the spirit of the Act by making requests the extent and scope of which unreasonably divert their resources. For example, one applicant lodged a request relating to a mining group which involved over 2000 documents in some 250 files."

I do not believe that this request would even come close to that threshold, nor has the department provided any evidence that it would.

11. Based on the points stated above, I can see no reason why the request can be classed as voluminous for purposes of s 15AB.

COMPLEX

12. As stated in 6, the process for generating these documents involves logging in to 3 separate portals, accessing the "dashboard" or "summary" of those portals and then collating the information in some manner to provide grand totals. This is a standard procedure in both Google and Apple developer portals and involves logging in, clicking on a dashboard and viewing the information. There are no complex procedures or queries involved in accessing this information as it is summary (high level) information and provided by default in those portals.

13. The process described would take only a few minutes (for each of the 3 portals) as a standard repeated process.

14. The documents requested in the FOI are being generated on a daily basis, regardless of the FOI request. The grand totals from these summaries are being reported on by the Prime Minister - The Hon Scott Morrison MP, the Chief Medical Officer - Professor Brendan Murphy, the Health Minister - The Hon Greg Hunt MP, as well as deputy medical officers and other staff in their daily press conferences and media releases. As this information is accessed on a regular basis there should be no complexity in either accessing or sourcing the documents due to their daily regular and ongoing use and access.

15. In the senate select committee on COVID-19 (6 May 2020), The Department of Health, Acting Secretary, Ms Edwards stated:

"The number I referred to earlier was the number of Australians who had registered, so downloaded and registered on the app, at 12 noon today-5,121,318. That number may have been updated in the meantime, but that was at noon." (Senate Select Committee into COVID-19, Hansard pp10 (ref#3) )

This committee commenced at 1pm and the quoted figure was at 12 noon - that means that a staff member logged in to all 3 portals, collated information, calculated a grand total and printed a figure for Ms Edwards to refer to in less than an hour. This would seem to indicate there is both no complexity in generating or sourcing the information required in the request.

16. Later in the senate select committee on COVID-19 (6 May 2020), The Department of Health, Acting Secretary, Ms Edwards stated:

"We're getting updates regularly. That's why I know there was 5,121,318 at noon. I'll probably get an update shortly."
(Senate Select Committee into COVID-19, Hansard pp25 (ref#4) )

This seems to indicate that there is no real or defined complexity involved, and updates are available as a matter of standard process.

17. Based on the above points in this section, I see no reason why this request can be classed as complex for purposes of s 15AB.

PUBLIC INTEREST

18. As stated in s 14, this information is being referred to by the Prime Minister and other MPs, department staff, medical officers in their regular and on going press conferences, media releases. These totals are then reported on by all media organisations, including TV and Radio news, print and online papers. It is of public interest to know how these numbers were calculated and verify the accuracy of the figures.

19. The senate select committee into COVID-19 is also referring to these figures.

20. The current government is introducing legislation in relation to the COVIDSafe app in the week starting Monday 11 May 2020.

21. The current government is linking installs of the application in their public commentary to the relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions. These restrictions affect all people country-wide, so is of vast public interest importance.

22. In the senate select committee on COVID-19 (6 May 2020), the Chief Executive Officer, Digital Transformation Agency, Mr Brugeaud in his evidence stated:

"As part of the development, clearly we tested the app for its functionality, and bluetooth testing was part of that. What we can say is that the quality of the bluetooth connectivity for phones that have the app installed running in the foreground is very good, and it progressively deteriorates and the quality of the connection is not as good as you get to a point where the phone is locked and the app is running in the background."
(Senate Select Committee into COVID-19, Hansard pp2 (ref#5) )

And later that:

"When you're involved in the delivery from day to day, there is a level of assumed knowledge. There has been a lot of discussion about the app working or not. The discussions we've been having about bluetooth signal strength and so on relate only to iOS devices-so only iPhones. For Android devices-and just under half of the community use Android devices-there is no performance issue whatsoever-no degradation depending on the state of the phone. And so the work that we're doing, particularly with Apple, will improve the bluetooth performance of the iOS devices, but there are no issues whatsoever with the performance in any state of Android devices, and I think that is an important clarification to make."
(Senate Select Committee into COVID-19, Hansard pp18 (ref#6) )

23. Due to this statement, there is public concern as to the efficacy of the Apple version of the COVIDSafe app. The summary detail showing how many devices/installs are affected by the Apple version is not in the grand total stated publicly by in the summary detail making up that total which is subject to this FOI request.

24. This concern is being regularly reported by many media organisations increasing the public interest of it.

The Guardian: "Covidsafe is app is not working properly on iPhones, authorities admit" (6 May 2020 (ref#7) ).

IT News: "DTA admits COVIDSafe performance 'highly variable' on iOS" (6 May 2020 (ref#8) ).

The ABC: "Coronavirus tracing app COVIDSafe hits 5 million downloads as Government concedes incompatibility with older phones" (6 May 2020 (ref#9) ).

25. For all these reasons, public importance states that information under this FOI request has vast public interest, especially with it coming into government decision making in the coming weeks. Putting off this detail even to the current deadline of the end of May, and especially extending to end of June would be of significant public detriment.

TIME SENSITIVE

26. As stated in previous sections, the information requested is being used for decision making in the coming days. It is being used to introduce legislation (s 20). It is being used to relax health restrictions in the coming weeks (s 21).

27. For the department to release this information weeks after the fact it does not allow the public to have an informed understanding into the decisions that the current government, the health department and other agencies are making into restrictions affecting all Australians during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

REFERENCES:
---------------
#1 https://www.oaic.gov.au/assets/freedom-o...

#2 (Victoria, Parliamentary Debates, Legislative Assembly, 7 May 1993, 1738)

#3 https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/dow...

#4 https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/dow...

#5 https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/dow...

#6 https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/dow...

#7 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/m...

#8 https://www.itnews.com.au/news/dta-admit...

#9 https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-06/c...

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From: Carl English


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Attachment RQ20 01604 Letter to Mr Chris F.pdf
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Our reference: RQ20/01604

Agency reference: FOI 1681

Mr Chris F

 

Sent by email: [1][FOI #6322 email]

Extension of time under s 15AB

Dear Chris

Please find correspondence in relation to your FOI request to Department
of Health attached.

Kind regards

[2]cid:image001.jpg@01D446AF.83C3DEE0   Carl English  | Review Adviser (Legal)

Freedom of Information Dispute
Resolution

Office of the Australian Information
Commissioner

GPO Box 5218 Sydney NSW 2001  |
 [3]oaic.gov.au

+61 2 9284 9745  | 
[4][email address]
[5]cid:image002.png@01D446AF.83C3DEE0 | [6]cid:image003.png@01D446AF.83C3DEE0 | [7]cid:image004.png@01D446AF.83C3DEE0 |   [8]cid:image005.png@01D446AF.83C3DEE0  

 

 

 

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Chris F left an annotation ()

OIAC agreed with Department of Health's reason for extension.

Decision

As a delegate of the Information Commissioner, I am authorised to make decisions on applications for extensions of time under s 15AB of the FOI Act.

I have decided to grant the Department an extension of time under s 15AB(2) of the FOI Act to 28 June 2020.

I am satisfied that the Department’s application for an extension of time is justified, because the request is complex.

My reasons follow:

* The Department has experienced a significant impact on its resources generally as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Department has received a large volume of requests in relation to COVID-19.

* The line area responsible to conducting searches in relation to the request currently does not the resources required as a result of COVID-19.

* The decision maker for this request is currently unavailable due to their national incident room responsibilities.

While I note your objections to this extension of time application, I am satisfied that a 30 day extension of time is appropriate in this circumstance.

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