Are you up for the COVID app?

Cape Breton Post - - OPINION -

It ap­pears, in de­vel­op­ing COVID Alert, the feds heeded this ad­vice or were al­ready in line with those rules of en­gage­ment.

Canada's con­tact-trac­ing app is up and run­ning in On­tario, and the At­lantic re­gion is next in line for a roll­out.

That's what the prime min­is­ter said Fri­day as he en­cour­aged Cana­di­ans to down­load the free app, which tracks phones by lo­ca­tion and alerts peo­ple if they've been near some­one who has tested pos­i­tive for coron­avirus.

“Health ex­perts say that if enough peo­ple sign up, this app can help pre­vent fu­ture out­breaks of COVID-19 in Canada,” Justin Trudeau said.

Al­most 1.2 mil­lion Cana­di­ans had down­loaded “COVID Alert” on their Ap­ple or An­droid de­vices as of Sun­day evening.

Some have tried to do so but couldn't be­cause their smart­phones were too old. This is an is­sue the fed­eral gov­ern­ment must ad­dress, as the app needs to be avail­able to all, not just those who can af­ford to keep up with new re­leases from Big Tech. There is also the mat­ter of in­clud­ing and pro­tect­ing those who don't use smart­phones.

But if you own a smart­phone, have or will you down­load the app?

It's a topic of con­ver­sa­tion for sure, es­pe­cially since Trudeau's an­nounce­ment.

Some peo­ple on the East Coast aren't con­cerned. They've al­ready got the app on their phone, wait­ing for their provin­cial health sys­tem to sync up.

Oth­ers re­main ap­pre­hen­sive and un­con­vinced due to pri­vacy wor­ries. They're anx­ious about the app be­ing, or even­tu­ally be­com­ing, a Big Brother that tracks their ev­ery move.

We ex­pressed sim­i­lar re­luc­tance in this space when provin­cial gov­ern­ments started pur­su­ing con­tact-trac­ing apps in May.

Our ed­i­to­rial fol­lowed a let­ter from the coun­try's pri­vacy com­mis­sion­ers to gov­ern­ments. They said such apps should be vol­un­tary, time-lim­ited, and set to record lo­ca­tion data only.

The com­mis­sion­ers also sug­gested data col­lected to fight COVID-19 should be used for no other pur­pose.

It ap­pears, in de­vel­op­ing COVID Alert, the feds heeded this ad­vice or were al­ready in line with those rules of en­gage­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to the app, it col­lects ran­dom codes from your phones and phones near you for 14 days. Those codes are stored and used for the pur­pose of no­ti­fy­ing you or oth­ers about pos­si­ble COVID-19 ex­po­sure.

It states COVID Alert has no way of know­ing your lo­ca­tion, name or ad­dress, con­tacts or health in­for­ma­tion.

Daniel Ther­rien, Canada's pri­vacy com­mis­sioner, said he felt the app con­tained “very sig­nif­i­cant pri­vacy pro­tec­tions.”

“I will use it,” he said in a joint state­ment with On­tario's pri­vacy com­mis­sioner.

But will you? Do the steps taken to pro­tect your pri­vacy and the en­dorse­ment of some­one like Ther­rien pro­vide enough com­fort? We think it should.

While down­load­ing COVID Alert re­mains vol­un­tary — and we are not call­ing for it to be manda­tory — it's in our col­lec­tive best in­ter­est for as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble to in­stall the app on their phone (and also for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to ad­dress any ac­ces­si­bil­ity is­sues as quickly as pos­si­ble).

The ben­e­fits far out­weigh the risks in pro­tect­ing each other and fight­ing fu­ture waves of COVID-19.

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