The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today announced the upcoming launch of a new nation-wide mobile app to provide notifications of exposure to COVID-19 across Canada, with beta testing to begin in Ontario.
The app, originally developed by the Government of Ontario, will help Canadians and public health officials identify and isolate the spread of the virus more quickly, which is an important step toward containing the virus and safely restarting the economy.
Use of the app will be voluntary. If someone tests positive for COVID-19, a health care provider will give them a unique temporary code, so they can upload their status anonymously to a national network. Other users who have downloaded the app and come in contact with that person will be notified, through the app, that they may have been exposed to the virus. The app will also provide users with information on steps they can take to keep themselves and others safe, and we are working with the provinces and territories so they can customize public health information based on their own jurisdiction.
The Canadian Digital Service is leading the development of the app, in collaboration with the Ontario Digital Service and building upon technology developed by Shopify volunteers. The app will undergo a security review by BlackBerry. It incorporates Bluetooth technology provided by Apple and Google to anonymously record instances where users have come into close contact. To protect confidentiality and privacy, the app will not disclose the identity of users. This information will never be shared with any other entity, will not be stored by the app, and will never leave the user’s phone. No personal information is collected by the app, and it does not track the user’s location to ensure the privacy of all Canadians.
The app will be available to Canadians for free download in the coming weeks, with health authorities in Ontario being the first to distribute the unique, temporary codes to people who test positive for COVID-19. We are working with the other provinces and territories to make it available in their jurisdictions as well. We anticipate other provinces and territories will come on board in the coming weeks and months.
“As we move forward with restarting the economy, we must keep working together to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. This new mobile app will put the privacy of Canadians first, and act as an extra measure of safety to help protect our families and communities from the virus.”The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
- The app will be available for Ontarians to download for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store in the coming weeks. The technology will be owned and operated by the Government of Canada, and published under an open source licence.
- The protection of Canadians’ privacy is a priority for the Government of Canada. The app will undergo a thorough privacy assessment, and all data provided to the app will be securely stored and protected. The federal government will not store personal health information.
- The government is engaging with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to ensure that the app complies with federal privacy requirements in its design and deployment.
- The Government of Canada will establish an external advisory council that includes regional representation, to provide guidance during the roll-out of the app with a view to ensuring it operates in a transparent way and in the public interest.