COVID Alert updated to help evaluate its effectiveness in reducing the spread of COVID-19
February 9 | Ottawa, ON | Health Canada
As we continue to deal with the health and economic impacts of the pandemic, we need to work together to contain the virus. Millions of Canadians are downloading and using the free COVID Alert app in an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Today, the Minister of Health, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, and the Minister of Digital Government, the Honourable Joyce Murray, announced that the COVID Alert app will be updated to help measure its uptake, performance and effectiveness in limiting the spread of COVID-19. This will be done through the collection of certain metrics, while maintaining strong privacy measures to protect confidentiality.
COVID Alert will collect aggregate metrics on:
- the number of active users and downloads per province or territory;
- the number of exposure notifications sent;
- the number of users who enter a one-time key after receiving a notification; and
- technical performance to help ensure the app is working correctly.
The app continues to uphold strong privacy measures, and does not track a user’s location or collect personally identifiable information. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner was consulted on this new metric collection and is satisfied with the safeguards in place, which will continue to protect Canadians’ privacy.
With this update, these new metrics will start being collected on a go-forward basis, with a phased implementation over two weeks, starting on February 9. Update the app and see how COVID Alert works, with user statistics being published on Canada.ca/COVIDAlert in spring 2021.
The Government of Canada continually reviews and improves COVID Alert. Updates are based on public health guidance, provincial and territorial needs, user research, feedback, and updates to the underlying framework by Apple and Google.
“With these new performance metrics, we are still prioritizing privacy while increasing our understanding of the apps’ effectiveness on reducing the spread of COVID-19.”
The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health
“The updates to this secure, easy-to-use digital tool will help us better understand how the app is helping to slow the spread of this virus and protect the health and safety of Canadians. The more of us who use the app, the more effective it will be, so I encourage all Canadians to do their part and download COVID Alert today.”
The Honourable Joyce Murray
Minister of Digital Government
COVID Alert is available for Canadians as a free download from the App Store or the Google Play Store. As of February 9, 2021, there have been more than 6.1 million downloads of the app.
When users download the app, their phones send out randomly generated codes via Bluetooth to other app users who are within approximately two metres. If they test positive for the virus, users can choose to upload their random codes to a central server located in Canada. Once uploaded, the random codes are stored on the server for 15 days, after which they are automatically deleted.
Since the app first launched in July 2020, more than 18,500 people have voluntarily input their one-time key to notify others around them after testing positive for COVID-19.
The COVID-19 Exposure Notification App Advisory Council was established to ensure the app meets the highest standards in public health outcomes, privacy and technology. Council members reflect Canada’s regional and cultural diversity, and cover a wide range of expertise, including health, privacy, data governance, science and innovation. Their advice informs the implementation and rollout of the app.
BlackBerry and the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security completed a security assessment of the app before it was launched. All data provided to the app is securely stored and protected.
COVID Alert is a collaboration between Health Canada, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, the Canadian Digital Service, and the Ontario Digital Service. It builds upon an exposure notification solution developed by Shopify volunteers in coordination with the non-profit Linux Foundation Public Health.
As part of our commitment to open and transparent government, the Canadian Digital Service is making its work on the app’s development and testing available on Github.
To ensure that Canadians have the latest features and that the app is working at its best, we encourage users to regularly update their operating system and checking the COVID Alert app to ensure they are aware of any exposure notifications.
The Canada COVID-19 App is another digital tool that supports Canadians. It allows users to track their symptoms while receiving the latest updates and accessing trusted resources.
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health
Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
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