Federally-backed COVID alert app is now available in Ontario

Canada's COVID Alert App

Canada's COVID Alert App

Health Canada has finally made its COVID-19 contact tracing app available. The federal government worked with Apple and Google on the technology underlying the app.

The app uses Bluetooth to exchange random code with nearby phones, the product description says.

The app, called COVID Alert, lets users know when they come close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

And it allays privacy concerns by not collecting location, name or address, phone contacts or any health data.

Federal government has launched its COVID Alert app, which is first being tested in Ontario before being rolled out nationally.

The initial rollout is only in Ontario now but officials are encouraging Canadians across the country to download the app in anticipation of more provincial and territorial health authorities signing on to use the new software.

Multiple countries have built apps using the Exposure Notification API so far, including Switzerland, Latvia, Italy, Germany, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Ireland, Croatia, and Denmark.

For users of Apple devices, the app works on operating systems iOS 13.5 and higher, meaning some people might have to either upgrade their operating systems or not be able to use it on older smartphones.

Nor would they say why only one province has agreed to adopt what it supposed to be a national app.

In addition, while the Android version requires uses to turn on their location settings, officials maintain the app will not know a user's location, name, address, when they were near someone or if they are now near someone who was previously diagnosed.

The app is created to be fully effective if people have already been using it for at least two weeks before they test positive for COVID-19.

"No one will know who you are or where you've been", the federal government said in a video. It only works to identify COVID-19 positive people if they have the app.

Ontario is being used as a trial bed before a nationwide roll-out.

Officials have stressed that no personal data will be collected.

"Canadians can opt to use this technology knowing it includes very significant privacy protections", said Therrien in a statement. The app was designed by the Canadian Digital Service using open source code from Shopify.

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