Canada’s COVID alert app received an update to correct a bug that left multiple users without exposure notifications for two weeks in November.
The update, which was released on November 23rd, included a patch note stating that it fixes a “bug causing gaps in exposure checks for some users.” explains that the bug meant that some users would not have received notifications if they came into close contact with someone who had COVID-19. Also, it’s unclear how many people missed these exposure notifications due to the glitch.
According to , the issue was first brought to the developer’s attention by the commenters in the Google Play Store already on November 12. Together with Play Store users, spoke with Urs Hengartner, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Waterloo, who said his device had not performed any exposure checks between November 9 and 23.
The problem arises when COVID Alert exceeds 5.5 million downloads. Additionally, the app was recently available in the Northwest Territories.
Important reminder: go to your app store and check that your #Alert for COVID-19 The application has the latest update.
This will ensure that your app is doing what it is supposed to do and that you are not lacking in controls or notifications. pic.twitter.com/nrMSItWvcj
– Canadian Digital Service (CDS) (@CDS_GC) November 26, 2020
reports that the Canadian Digital Service, the federal agency responsible for the COVID Alert, tweeted a reminder for users to update the COVID Alert to “make sure your app is doing what it is supposed to do and is not lacking in controls or notifications.” However, the tweet did not mention that there was an update to fix that exact problem and did not warn of potential risks for users who may not receive exposure notifications. It’s unclear what other steps, if any, the agency took to warn users and encourage them to update the app.
Make sure your COVID alert app is up to date
Despite the bug, it is important that people continue to install and use COVID Alert. The app is not intended to replace other tools to combat the spread of COVID-19, but it is useful to warn users if they were potentially exposed.
COVID Alert users should make sure their app is up to date. Bug fixes aside, you should always keep your applications and software up to date, but this issue is definitely a good reason to update the application if you haven’t already. We’ve included instructions below on how to check the version and update the app on iPhone and Android:
IPhone users should head to the App Store and then search for COVID Alert. When you open the application page, there are two things to look for. First, the ‘What’s New’ segment will show the current version; make sure it’s 1.1.2 or higher. Next, look for the blue button next to the app icon and below the app title. If it says ‘Open’, you have the latest version installed, but if it says ‘Update’, tap the button to download and install the latest version.
Android users can check their app version by pressing and holding the COVID Alert app icon and selecting ‘App Info’ or by going to Settings> Apps & notifications> View all apps> COVID Alert (worth it Note that some Android phone manufacturers may change or customize the Settings app, so the exact route to get there may differ on some devices.)
Once you have accessed the information page of the COVID alert app, tap ‘Advanced’ to expand the menu and scroll to the bottom to see the version. If you have 1.1.2 or later, then you should have the patch that fixes the bug. If you have an older version, go to the Play Store> three-line menu button in the upper left corner> My apps and games> install the COVID alert update listed there. You can also search for COVID Alert to find the application and install the update.