A new app, COVID Alert, launched today, uses Bluetooth technology to let users know if they may have been exposed to COVID-19.
“It is free, easy and safe to use. The more people who download the app, the more effective it will be in stopping the spread of COVID-19,” stated a Government of Ontario press release.
COVID Alert does not collect any personal information, health information, or location data. It uses Bluetooth technology to send out encrypted codes to other nearby app users and was built using the Apple/Google framework for exposure notification to ensure that it leverages global best practices to protect privacy.
When a user receives a positive diagnosis, they are given a one-time code, which they can voluntarily enter into the app. Using Bluetooth, the app will then scan through other users, and send an alert out to any device which had been within two metres, for 15 minutes or more, of any positive code over the previous 14 days. The user can then take action to protect themselves and others, including getting themselves tested. The app does not collect personal information or health data, and does not know or track the location, name, address, or contacts of any user.
COVID Alert is a voluntary program. Ontarians can choose whether to download the app, whether to use the app after downloading it, and whether to notify other users if they test positive for COVID-19, said the release. “COVID Alert does not collect any personal information, health information, or location data. It uses Bluetooth technology to send out encrypted codes to other nearby app users and was built using the Apple/Google framework for exposure notification to ensure that it leverages global best practices to protect privacy,” it said.
Work on COVID Alert was initiated in Ontario by the Ontario Digital Service and volunteers at Shopify, and was the foundation of the work by the Government of Canada. The app was developed in consultation with the Privacy Commissioners of Canada and Ontario to ensure the highest level of privacy for everyone using it. Although launched first in Ontario, the Government of Canada is working to expand the app to other provinces.
“This important, made-in-Ontario COVID Alert app will be a critical part of our case and contact management strategy as more regions in Ontario enter Stage 3 today," said Premier Doug Ford. ”This innovative tool was developed by some of the best and brightest minds in our province, working in partnership with Ottawa. As businesses open their doors and schools prepare for September, we need to help stop the spread and keep others safe by downloading this COVID Alert app.
The app was built with privacy as a top priority, said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “This Ontario-made app keeps people informed about being potentially exposed to the virus and allows them to act quickly to stop the spread of the virus. It is a key tool in our case and contact management strategy. I encourage all Ontarians to download the app, as early detection of cases will be important as we continue to carefully reopen more of the province.”