Government to launch nationwide COVID-19 contact tracing app in coming weeks

The government is going to begin testing the app in Ontario

Justin Trudeau Prime Minister

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a nationwide contact tracing app created in partnership with Shopify and BlackBerry will be available across the country soon.

“Led by the Canadian Digital Service and with the help of Shopify, BlackBerry and the government of Ontario, we’ve been working on a nationwide mobile app that will notify users if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19,” Trudeau said during his daily briefing on June 18th.

He stated that the government is going to begin testing the app in Ontario, and that it will be available to everyone in the coming weeks.

Trudeau stressed that the app will be completely voluntary, and it is up to Canadians to decide if they want to download it. However, he noted the app will be most effective if as many people as possible download it.

“If you test positive for COVID-19, a healthcare professional will help you upload your status anonymously to a national network. Other users who have the app and have been in proximity to you will then be alerted that they’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive,” he explained.

Trudeau said the notification will encourage them to reach out to their local public health authorities. He outlined that personal information will not be collected, and that no location services will be used. Trudeau said the privacy of Canadians will be “fully respected.”

The app uses Apple and Google’s notification API, which Trudeau says is significant because it is designed so that it doesn’t drain users’ phone batteries, which he notes was a problem with apps launched in other countries.

Apple and Google’s ‘Exposure Notification System’ uses Bluetooth technology to share randomized codes with other nearby smartphones, which can’t identify users. Other smartphones are then able to access these codes and check for matches against the codes stored on devices.

Trudeau noted the federal government will maintain the database of randomized codes associated with phones that download the app. He insisted the data for this nationwide app will only be held by the government, and that it has worked with its technology partners, like Shopify and Blackberry, to ensure the app remains “private and anonymous.”

He stated there are more than 30 million smartphones across the country, and a significant portion of the country can be covered with the app.