Live updates, December 9: Hipkins rejects privacy concerns over Tracer app update

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Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 9. Get in touch at

7.45am: Hipkins rejects privacy concerns over Tracer app update

The Covid-19 response minister has rejected privacy concerns around a new update to the government’s Tracer app that allows for bluetooth functionality.

Effectively a digital handshake, the upgraded app will be using notification software developed by Apple and Google that allows for smartphones to have an automatic check-in when they are close to each other.

But, Chris Hipkins said QR codes remain an important part of the contact tracing process. “People still need to use QR codes because the bluetooth data is anonymised and it doesn’t record locations,” he told RNZ.

The QR code acts as a “memory jogger” for people, Hipkins said, especially considering not everyone will have the bluetooth functionality switched on.

Hipkins said the new feature will not breach anyone’s privacy and has been given “the big tick” from the privacy commissioner. “That’s really helpful,” he said.

The app will also help determine close and casual contacts, Hipkins said. “One of the things that the phone will do is it will decide how long someone needs to have been in contact with them to be at risk… that information will be recorded.”

Asked if he had a number in mind for how many people he hoped turned on the bluetooth feature, Hipkins said the more the better. “I don’t have a particular number in mind.”

Read more on the new update to the Tracer app here.

7.40am: Top stories from The Bulletin

The security services have come in for criticism in a Royal Commission report into the March 15 terrorist attacks, which left 51 people dead and many more injured. As Justin Giovannetti reports, spy agencies were basically unaware of the terrorist, having failed to put enough of a focus on the dangers of far-right and white supremacist extremism. Nor did they necessarily have the capability to detect and stop his plans, with the caveat that the terrorist took steps to conceal them in advance. As a result, one aspect of the recommendations from the report is to expand the security state, with a new agency focusing on counter terrorism. A full list of recommendations can be read on the NZ Herald.

In response, the PM apologised on behalf of the government. Her full speech has been published here. “Ultimately, this roughly 800-page report can be distilled into one simple premise. Muslim New Zealanders should be safe. Anyone who calls New Zealand home, regardless of race, religion, sex or sexual orientation should be safe. New Zealanders deserve a system that does its best to keep you safe, and that is what we are committed to building. But an apology would be hollow without action,” she said. In Australia, the shadow minister for multicultural affairs has made a statement to parliament calling for reflection and action, in light of where the terrorist grew up, reports Toby Manhire.

One problem in the system of information sharing came to light yesterday morning, from Stuff’s Jody O’Callaghan. She reported that the gunman was treated in a Dunedin hospital for a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2018, sustained while cleaning it, but that information was never passed on to police. It’s easier to say with the benefit of hindsight, but had mandatory reporting of gunshot wounds been in place at the time, police may have visited his home and discovered the arsenal of weapons being assembled. It is also well documented that police bungled the checks around him gaining a gun licence.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

7.30am: Yesterday’s headlines

The Royal Commission report into the Christchurch terrorist attacks was released, including recommendations to bolster support for ethnic minorities and expand the security state.

Jacinda Ardern apologised on behalf of the government for failings prior to the attacks, including security services’ lack of focus on potential white supremacist violence.

Christchurch Muslim leaders also spoke following the report’s release, and called for the recommendations outlined in the report to be put into action.

There were six new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation, and it was announced that 52 members of the Pakistan cricket squad would be released from MIQ after testing negative on their 12-day swabs.

Home ownership has plunged to a 70-year low, a Stats NZ report revealed.

Read all the key stories in yesterday’s live updates

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