Federal government’s COVID tracker app hits 1-million downloads

COVID Alert app screens The COVID Alert app is designed to alert users to exposure to people who test positive for COVID-19

The COVID Alert app, a new tool in the fight against COVID-19 infections created by the federal government has been downloaded more than one million times since its launch Friday.

The app is designed to alert the user if they have been exposed to people who have tested positive for COVID-19. The app, available for iOS and Android devices, was authored by a federal agency called the Canadian Digital Service, which was created to modernize the way the Government of Canada designs and delivers digital services. The app also uses opensource programming code from Shopify and was reviewed by Blackberry for security issues,

The Canadian Digital Service (CDS) announced on Twitter Monday that the app hit 1.1 million downloads. It was launched in Ontario first, with other provinces to follow later this summer.

“You never cease to amaze us, Canada! Thanks to you, we’re closer to slowing the spread of COVID-19,” the CDS tweeted on its Twitter.com account.

COVID Alert is available in an iOS version (iPhones, iPad) or a version for Android phones.

The app is the federal government’s latest effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

How to use it:

  • Download the app to your smartphone.
  • The phone uses wireless Bluetooth technology to exchange information with nearby phones.
  • If someone tests positive for COVID-19, they will receive a one-time key that they enter into the app on their phone.
  • The app broadcasts notices to every phone that has been within two metres of the infected person’s phone for at least 15 minutes over the previous 14 days. It works only if those other phones also have the app activated.
  • Users who receive an exposure notification get instrcutions on what to do next.

Officials say that the app becomes more effective as more people download it. They emphasize that it’s a notification app, not a contact-tracing app.

Health Canada also said that the COVID Alert app puts privacy first of its users and has no way of accessing:

  • A user’s location. COVID Alert does not use GPS or location services
  • Their name or address
  • The place or time a user was near someone with COVID-19
  • If a user is currently near someone who was previously diagnosed

App is voluntary

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “I want to be clear — this app isn’t mandatory,” he told reporters when it launched. “It’s completely voluntary to download and to use.”