The federal government’s COVID alert app has exceeded 4 million downloads after more provinces joined the app in recent weeks. Additionally, Canada’s public health website says that more than 1,000 single-use keys have been used as of October 8.
At the beginning of September, and 90 days after the launch of COVID Alert, the application had 2.2 million downloads. These new numbers represent a roughly equivalent increase in downloads over about 40 days, or less than half the time it took to pass the 2 million mark.
It is worth noting that several provinces have officially joined COVID Alert and more are set to launch support for the app. Currently, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, and Labrador, Ontario, PEI, and Quebec allow COVID Alert users to report a COVID-19 diagnosis with the app. BC and Nova Scotia also plan to support the app soon.
COVID alert warns of possible exposure to COVID-19 without compromising privacy
For those not yet familiar with COVID Alert, the app relies on Google and Apple’s exposure notification system. The system was designed to be interoperable between Android and iOS devices and forms a basis for countries to create exposure notification applications.
COVID Alert works by using the Bluetooth Low Energy connections of smartphones to detect other nearby phones and exchange unique and anonymous codes. These codes cannot reveal your identity or any other private information, such as your location or what you were doing when the codes were transferred. Instead, these codes serve as a record of every possible close contact you have with someone closer to you. The application can exchange information such as the strength and duration of the Bluetooth connection, which can be used to estimate the duration of the contact. Smartphones store these codes locally and no one else can see them.
When someone tests positive for COVID-19 in one of the provinces that support the application, they receive a unique key with the result. They can enter this key into the COVID Alert app to verify their positive test, then upload the local record of potential close contacts from their phone. Again, the registry does not identify you or share any personal data. Once charged, other COVID Alert smartphones can check anonymous codes for matches. If there is a match, the app alerts users that they were potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19 and offers suggested next steps, such as quarantining or getting tested. All this is done without revealing who you are or other personal information.
The COVID Alert app has been vetted and approved by both the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC).
If you haven’t downloaded COVID Alert yet, you can download it for free on both ios Y Android. As the COVID case count continues to rise, download the app if you can. It could be of great help in protecting you and your loved ones, while helping to slow the spread of the virus.