Contact Tracing Apps

Canada to Begin Testing Contact Tracing App

COVID Alert will become available for residents of Ontario on July 2.

While several countries in Europe have already released contact tracing apps using Apple-Google technology, Canada has announced that it has developed a new national contract tracing app that will also use the Apple-Google Exposure Notification API.

The new app was built by an unlikely consortium of partners that included e-commerce developer Shopify, BlackBerry and the Government of Ontario. However, despite the involvement of the provincial-level government, the project was led by the national government’s Canadian Digital Service initiative.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the plan for the new app yesterday during his regular daily press briefing, noting that it will begin testing in Ontario before being rolled out across the country.

Trudeau was careful to emphasize that the app will be “completely voluntary” at every stage, and that those who test positive for COVID-19 will have the option of having a health-care professional help them “upload their status anonymously to a national network.”

While the province of Alberta was one of the first local governments to release its own contact tracing app, Trudeau said last month that the federal government wanted a single app for the whole country to avoid fears of a patchwork of local apps that would make the whole system less effective, and would especially limit contact tracing across provincial borders.

Shopify, which sells e-commerce software to businesses, said the app is “not a Shopify initiative” but is being developed by a group of volunteers from the company.

“The national app will be owned and operated by the government of Canada in cooperation with the provinces and territories,” said Sheryl So, a company spokeswoman.

BlackBerry will be providing security and privacy expertise to review the app.

Apple and Google Contact Tracing
Apple and Google Contact Tracing

Premier Doug Ford is urging the public to sign up.

Users will notified if they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days. The app will also provide users with quick access to public-health advice and resources, and recommend any necessary actions, such as monitoring for symptoms, self-isolation or appropriate next steps on getting tested.

Canada’s app will use Bluetooth technology to send out encrypted, anonymized codes to other nearby phones that have the app

On Thursday, the UK said it was switching to the Apple and Google model for its COVID-19 test-and-trace app after a locally developed system did not work well enough.

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