Health Canada’s COVID-19 contact tracing app goes live Friday

Yolanda Curtis
August 2, 2020

The government's new COVID-19 app is now ready to download on your smartphone.

The prime minister also made a few announcements concerning COVID-19-related financial benefits, telling residents that the Canadian Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program will be extended through August.

Following productive and in-depth discussions with the federal and Ontario governments, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) have concluded their review of the COVID Alert exposure notification application and support use of the app. The app adopted by the federal government was a collaboration between Apple and Google, and the tech giants emphasized that they developed it with privacy and anonymity front and centre.

Ontario is being used as a trial bed before a nationwide roll-out. The app was designed by the Canadian Digital Service using open source code from Shopify.

It is a key tool in Ontario's case and contact management strategy, and will become available across the country later in August. "As we continue to gradually restart our economy, innovative technologies like this new app will help us keep our families and communities safe and healthy". "It is free, easy to use, and the responsible thing to do", Ford said.

It works by using Bluetooth technology to detect when users are near each other.

When someone tests positive for COVID-19, they are given a code to enter into COVID Alert, which is then sent to a central server. "I downloaded the app this morning, and I encourage you to do the same".

At the time, Jay Cameron, a lawyer for the Alberta-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), told LifeSiteNews that the legal group is keeping a close eye on government-issued contact tracing apps.

"We've seen what happens if we don't listen to the advice", Ford said. Because the app is positioned as a national initiative, the OPC and the IPC also consulted other provincial and territorial privacy commissioners.

"Monitoring someone's whereabouts using their cell phones is, of course, a search", Cameron said.

The prime minister stresses the app is completely voluntary and does not collect any personal information from you like your name, address or location.

In an effort to assuage privacy concerns the government has formed an 11-member advisory council of external public health, mobile app, data security, epidemiology, and privacy experts that will be regularly reporting to the government to "inform decision-making with respect to the app".

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