Stopping the Spread? Enhancing Legal Frameworks for the Protection of Personal Information in the Context of COVID-19 Contact Tracing

Sarah Moulds  
Senior Lecturer in Law, Justice and Society Unit, University of South Australia
Nadia Corsini
Senior Research Fellow, Rosemary Bryant AO Research Centre, University of South Australia
Jeremy Ryder
Online Tutor, University of South Australia
Nectaria Calan
Bachelor of Laws Student and Research Assistant, University of South Australia


Personal privacy versus public safety is a rights trade-off that has been brought into sharp focus by the COVID-19 pandemic, with flow-on implications for the success of contract tracing regimes implemented across Australia.  These contact tracing regimes depend upon the supply of accurate information by individuals, which in turn depends upon the trust that is placed in health authorities and other government officials to handle personal information with care.  A range of different laws govern the collection and use of personal information by health authorities at the federal level and in each Australian state or territory. Understanding these rules might help us to work out ways to ensure that everyone in our community feels like they can tell the truth when it matters most.  Using a case study from South Australia, this article reviews existing legislative, regulatory and policy frameworks that currently apply to the collection and use of personal information in health care and highlights the tension between creating incentives to share personal information and policing compliance with COVID-19 laws and ensuring robust legal protection for sensitive personal information.  Relevant lessons from the South Australian experience are then extrapolated for consideration by other Australian jurisdictions, with a view to identifying what safeguards and protections could be included in current legal frameworks governing the use, sharing and disclosure of personal information in health care settings to help resolve the current tension between protecting individual privacy and promoting public health.


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COVID-19 Emergency Response Act 2020 (SA).
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Health Records Act 2001 (Vic).
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Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld).
Information Act 2002 (NT).
Information Privacy Act 2014 (ACT).
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Public Sector (Data Sharing Act) 2016 (SA).
South Australian Public Health Act 2011 (SA).
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Emergency Management (Public Activities No 23) (COVID-19) Direction 2021 (SA).
Emergency Management (Public Activities No 24) (COVID-19) Direction 2021 (SA).
Public Sector (Data Sharing) Regulations 2017 (SA).
South Australian Public Health (Notifiable and Con-trolled Notifiable Conditions) Regulations 2012 (SA).

International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, opened for signature 16 December 1966, 999 UNTS 171 (entered into force 23 March 1976).
How to Cite
Moulds S, Corsini N, Ryder J, Calan N. Stopping the Spread? Enhancing Legal Frameworks for the Protection of Personal Information in the Context of COVID-19 Contact Tracing. LiC [Internet]. 2022Jan.24 [cited 2024Jul.13];37(3). Available from:

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