Ontario to launch voluntary ‘COVID Alert’ contact tracing app next month

The app uses Apple and Google’s ‘Exposure Notification System'

The government of Ontario is going to roll out a voluntary Bluetooth-based COVID-19 contact tracing app next month called “COVID Alert.”

Premier Doug Ford noted during his daily press briefing on June 18th that protecting people’s privacy was the number one priority when choosing a potential app. The app is expected to be available on iOS and Android on July 2nd.

“Privacy was our number one issue, and we will continue to promote it. The app’s going to protect you, it’s going to protect families,” he said, stating the importance of tracing and tracking the spread of COVID-19.

This comes a few hours after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that a nationwide COVID-19 contact tracing app will be available in the coming weeks, after beginning testing in Ontario. He noted that the government worked with Shopify and BlackBerry to create the app.

The contact tracing app is based on Shopify’s “COVID Shield,” which is a tool that was created to help governments launch their own exposure notification systems.

COVID Alert app

Shopify’s model utilizes Apple and Google’s ‘Exposure Notification System,’ which 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.

If someone has tested positive for COVID-19, a healthcare professional will help them upload their status anonymously to a national network. Other users who have downloaded the app and have been in close proximity to them will be alerted that they’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive.

The app will then provides public health advice and notify the user on what steps they should take next. Prime Minister Trudeau stated earlier that the federal government will maintain the database of randomized codes associated with phones that download the app.

The government has stressed that the app will be completely voluntary, and it is up to Canadians to decide if they want to download it, but that the app will be most effective if as many people as possible use it.

Image source: Government of Ontario