'Completely voluntary' COVID-19 contact tracing app ready for Canadians to download

The government's new app will alert users if they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19

The government's new app will alert users if they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19

In a press conference on Friday, Doug Ford announced that Ontario's COVID Alert app is ready for download.

In order for the app to notify you when you have made contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you will have to be under two metres away from that person for 15 minutes or more.

"We believe that in context", the OPPC added, "the governments of Canada and Ontario have sufficiently demonstrated that COVID Alert is likely to be effective in reducing the spread of the virus, as part of a larger set of measures and subject to close monitoring for effectiveness once the app is in use".

The app uses Bluetooth technology to detect when users are near each other.

People who test positive for the virus can type in a code which notifies anyone they've been in contact with in the previous 14 days, assuming they too have downloaded the app.

Anyone receiving such a notification is directed to contact their local health authority for instructions.

The app was developed in consultation with the Privacy Commissioners of Canada and Ontario, and, according to the Province, ensures the highest level of privacy for everyone using it. "And it doesn't collect your name, address, geolocation, or other personal information".

"Canadians can opt to use this technology knowing it includes very significant privacy protections", the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Daniel Therrien, said. He and Ontario information and privacy commissioner Patricia Kosseim said government monitoring of its implementation and effectiveness, coupled with independent oversight, are key to maintaining public trust.

Canadians from across the country can download the app, but only health authorities in Ontario will be distributing those one-time keys, for now.

"You've had close contact with someone who reported a COVID-19 diagnosis through the app".

The privacy watchdogs assessed the app and were supportive of the voluntary nature, but cautioned that there is still a risk that third parties may seek users to disclose information related to their use of the app, and there are plans to continue to assess the app as more Canadians begin using it.

Because the positive test result is reported to the app by the user, rather than public health officials, the government characterized the app's use as voluntary.

Officials have stressed that no personal data will be collected.

He said that EI premiums won't be raised.

The app is not mandatory for Canadians, and can be downloaded voluntarily from Google's Play Store and Apple's App Store. Otherwise, Geist said at the time, people may feel a false sense of security because they are not being notified. The app was designed by the Canadian Digital Service using open source code from Shopify. Android users must turn their location settings on for it to work for, whereas iPhones users do not.

"To clarify right from the outset, the COVID Alert is not a contact tracing app", a government official told journalists in a technical briefing about the application on Friday.

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