How does the coronavirus tracking app work in Canada?


The newly released coronavirus tracing app in Ottawa is not without its flaws, but is a safe tool for those with privacy concerns, according to a University of Waterloo professor specializing in artificial intelligence and technology.In one version, Waterloo professor Mark Crowley explains that the COVID Alert app basically works using Bluetooth connections and random codes generated and stored in your phone.

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Bluetooth is a powerful tool because if a person is within Bluetooth range of someone else, they are also likely to catch the virus from that person (approximately two to three meters).

If the app decides that your phone is close enough to another person’s phone, it will redeem random codes which will be stored for two weeks. Codes are only exchanged between the two cell phones, according to Crowley.

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If a person were to test positive for the coronavirus, they would be given a unique random code to enter into their app. Crowley says the code contains no identifying information.

Once you’ve entered the code and given permission to the app, the list of random codes it sent in the previous two weeks will then be shared with a central server.

The Waterloo professor says that is when other people will be alerted that they may have been infected with COVID-19.

Crowley says he understands why people would be concerned about data security and privacy when adding the COVID-19 app to their phones.

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“I use the app and my family use the app,” he said. “I have no concerns about its privacy controls. However, people have raised a lot of legitimate concerns about these types of apps in other countries and even the deployment of this in Canada. ”

He says the app tries to share as little information as possible while still allowing contact tracing.

“Any app using this layer cannot access the location or identity from the phone,” he said. “Therefore, the federal or provincial government cannot track your location or identity using this app. ”

One potential downside noted by Crowley was the fact that the app won’t work with older phones.

“The app depends on software technology that is only available on newer phones (Android: 6.0+, iOS: 13.5+),” he explained. “This means that many Canadians with older or non-upgraded phones, estimated at around 11% of the country’s mobile phones, will not be able to run the app.”

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He says it is important for people to download the app because it is a tool to minimize the spread of the virus.

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“We must all work together as a society to live with this disease until reliable treatments and prevention methods are available,” Crowley said.

“While treatment is improving every day and vaccine trials continue, it may be years before we have a real grip on how to minimize death and suffering from COVID-19.”

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