There’s a fear burglars could benefit from a Government requirement for cafes and restaurants to compile lists of customer names and addresses in case Covid-19 contact tracing is needed.

Businesses report they haven’t been given clear guidance on how best to collect information and the haphazard way cafes and restaurants are recording names has a very real risk of privacy breaches.

The ABC is reporting that businesses haven’t been given clear instructions on how to collect information and it seems Notebooks, spreadsheets and paper lists are used.

There seem to be no co-ordinated security procedures.

The authorities need to quickly clear up the widespread confusion over Covid-19 contact lists.

At a recent visit to my local coffee spot, I had to list my name, address and phone number which I was happy to do. The issue was I was able to see all the other names and addresses as well. The list effectively lists people that are not presently at the address listed.

There’s a real privacy flaw here as it would be so easy for a thief to make a note of those addresses and burgle the address with confidence that at least one home owner is not home. They could also take a photo of the list and send it to their thieving mates.

The ABC reports Queensland Council of Civil Liberties president Michael Cope saying State Government guidelines about how businesses must collect and store information about customers are not clear enough.

The COVID Safe Checklist for businesses requires that they keep contact information for all customers, workers and contractors, including names, addresses and mobile phone numbers for at least 56 days.

The information is to be “captured and stored confidentially and securely”.

However as businesses race to reopen, many have just used paper-based methods to collect the information, in notebooks or spreadsheets where the personal data can be seen by other patrons.

The Queensland Government needs to clearly define what “confidentially and securely” means.

ABC reported audio technician Andrew Troedson saying he had to write down his contact details on a piece of paper visible to other customers.

“It was just a paper and pencil and you wrote it on a clipboard, along with everyone else who had been visiting,” he said.

This is the sort of worrying scenario that could be a major security weakness.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has developed guidelines for businesses. They include telling customers that information is being collected, storing it in a safe place away from public view and destroying the information once it is no longer necessary.

It’s way too ad hoc and haphazard at the moment. Cafes and restaurants are trying to survive and they don’t need the added stress of maintaining vaguely defined contact lists. They need clarity.