COVID Alert app is now ready for use in Ontario

COVID Alert

The COVID Alert app is available for Apple and Android devices

Although anyone in Canada is able to download "COVID Alert", the app will only give a user an alert if they have been in close contact with an individual who tested positive in a province or territory that has the app integrated into its testing system, which is now only Ontario.

But while government officials say the goal is to make the COVID Alert contact notification app available across the country and are in talks with other provinces, they could not say when it will be available outside Ontario.

The government website indicates the app "is designed for you to stay informed about COVID-19 in Canada and determine what actions and next steps you should take".

Premier Doug Ford is strongly encouraging everyone to download and use the app.

If the COVID Alert finds matching codes, a message will be delivered to an individual they may have been exposed to COVID-19, however, they will not know where or when they had close contact with an infected person.

"If you're closer than two metres for more than 15 minutes, the app will record an exposure", reads COVID Alert's definition of "an exposure".

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If a user tests positive for COVID-19, they can choose to let other users know without sharing any personal information.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among those who said they downloaded the app on Thursday.

The app's goal is to help stop the spread of the virus, although it is not mandatory.

When CTV News contacted B.C.'s ministry of health for an interview to answer questions like when the app would be activated in this province, officials emphasized the app should be referred to as "a contact notification app" rather than a contact tracing app. It has also been backed by the federal government.

The Federal government of Canada released a contact tracing app Friday, available on both Google's Android and Apple's iOS mobile platforms.

In May, CTV News was first to report that the province is quietly using loyalty programs and credit cards to notify people they may have been exposed to a confirmed case of the virus in various businesses, which raised concerns with a privacy watchdog. Use of the COVID Alert app is also completely voluntary.

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If they've tested positive, health authorities will give a key that can be entered into the app.

For users of Apple devices, the app works on the iOS 13.5 operating system and newer systems.

"Canadians can opt to use this technology knowing it includes very significant privacy protections", said Daniel Therrien, privacy commissioner of Canada, in the statement, adding that he will "use it".

According to the province, the app collects no personal data or personal health information and does not collect or track Global Positioning System location data.

"I support the use of exposure notification technology to help control the spread of COVID-19, provided it is used in the way it's been created to respect the privacy of Ontarians", says Commissioner Kosseim.

Therrien and Kosseim said, however, that their endorsements are conditioned on the app's use being voluntary and the government continuing to monitor it.

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