OTTAWA — A made-in-Canada mobile app to alert Canadians who may have been exposed to a person infected with COVID-19 is ready for testing in Ontario, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Thursday.
Trudeau said using the app is completely voluntary and it will not share or store any personal information, including a user’s geographical location.
“It will be up to individual Canadians to decide whether to download the app or not but the app will be most effective when as many people as possible have it.”
Trudeau said the federal privacy commissioner was involved in the development and every consideration has been given to protecting privacy because the government is very aware that if Canadians are worried about their privacy they won’t use the app.
It will work by having people who test positive for the novel coronavirus upload that information anonymously to the app, with the help of a public health official. Then, any phone that was recently close to that phone for an extended time will alert its holder to a possible exposure to the illness.
Those people will be encouraged to contact their local public health units for help.
Phone-makers, including Apple and Google, have developed new software to use Bluetooth connections to log those phone contacts. Trudeau said the app will run in the background and not eat up much battery, and no personal information will be stored.
The logs that keep track of what phones were in contact with each other will use anonymized codes, he said.
Concerns about privacy have been paramount in discussions of contact tracing apps, and Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner wasted no time raising it as an issue this morning on Twitter.
“After failing to address the issue of data privacy in Canada for years, would you trust Trudeau’s app with your data (health, whereabouts, contacts, etc),” she asked, as she created a poll to ask Canadians for their thoughts.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is to provide more information on how the app will be rolled out in his province later today. Trudeau said the government is working with all provinces, and that the program should be ready for downloading all across the country in July. He said some work remains to be done to integrate the app with local health units in every province.
Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press