Thursday, 08 Jun 2023

Victorians Covid contact tracing data sent for potential use by data mining platform

Victorians Covid contact tracing data sent for potential use by data mining platform


Victorians Covid contact tracing data sent for potential use by data mining platform

Under pressure to control spiralling Covid cases in July 2020, the Victorian government sent contact tracing data to the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission in the hope a controversial data mining platform might help identify the source of mystery cases.

Data security experts described the move as "dubious" and "outrageous".

The platform, Palantir, was founded by US tech billionaire Peter Thiel, one of former US president Donald Trump's biggest donors in 2016. It has previously attracted criticism over its use by the US military, immigration agencies and spy agencies, and its application in predictive policing systems.

A Victoria department of health spokesperson confirmed that in July 2020 the department investigated using the Palantir platform for a new contact tracing tool.

"A sample set of de-identified mobility data was used to investigate whether the program could achieve what was required, with strict conditions in place about its use, accessibility and destruction," the spokesperson said.

"The department did not proceed with the program and instead developed an in-house tool, which successfully supported contract tracing throughout the pandemic."

Dr Suelette Dreyfus, a lecturer and digital security expert with the University of Melbourne's school of computing and information systems, described the data sharing as "outrageous".

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