The Federal government of Canada released a contact tracing app Friday, available on both Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS mobile platforms. The “COVID Alert” is currently available in Ontario, with expected availability across the remainder of Canada’s provinces and territories by summer’s end.
According to the Canadian government, its contact tracing app “helps us break the cycle of infection [and] can let people know of possible exposures before any symptoms appear.”
Mobile phone users across Canada received the following text message from the Canadian government via their cellular service providers:
This is a message from the Government of Canada.
Help protect yourself and your community. Download the COVID Alert app for free to help stop the spread of the virus.
The COVID Alert app lets users know if they may have been exposed to COVID-19. Available now in the App Store and Google Play.
The website for the app shares the following information:
Your privacy is protected
COVID Alert does not use GPS or track your location.
It has no way of knowing:
- Your location.
- Your name or address.
- Your phone’s contacts.
- Your health information.
- The health information of anyone you’re near.
Nobody will get any information about you or the time you were near them.
The #COVID Alert app is now available for Apple or Android phones released within the past 5 years. (At least iOS 13.5 or Android version 6).
Have questions or need support?
— Canadian Digital Service (CDS) (@CDS_GC) July 31, 2020
[1/2] COVID Alert, the national exposure notification app, is another tool Canadians can use to help slow the spread of #COVID19 and prevent future outbreaks.
More info: https://t.co/qRlXketE1w pic.twitter.com/cDCcrfnjVl
— Health Canada and PHAC (@GovCanHealth) July 31, 2020
In explaining “how [COVID Alert] works,” the government states, “The app uses Bluetooth to exchange random codes with nearby phones. Every day, it checks a list of random codes from people who tell the app they tested positive. If you’ve been near one of those codes in the past 14 days, you’ll get a notification.”
“The privacy of Canadians will be fully respected,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in June of the app. “It is extremely important that we make sure that a Canadians privacy is protected.”
User data collected by the app and contained in a national database will be “entirely on an anonymized basis,” claimed Trudeau.
Trudeau encouraged Canadians to download the “COVID Alert” app on Friday. “[Canadians] can and should download it today,” he said at a press conference. “I downloaded the app this morning, and I encourage you to do the same.”
Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter.