Feds to Shut Down COVID Alert App That Cost $21 Million This Week: Report

The COVID Alert app is expected to be shut down by the federal government, as soon as this week, notes unnamed sources speaking to CBC News. Similar reports of the app’s demise were also shared by The Globe and Mail and Canadian Press on Monday.

Canada’s COVID Alert app is based on Google and Apple’s exposure notification framework, which leverages Bluetooth on devices for anonymous “handshakes” in the background. The app does not use GPS info or collect any user data. It has been vetted as safe by Canada’s privacy commissioner and provincial counterparts.

When someone tests positive for COVID-19, they can anonymously alert others that may have been in contact using COVID Alert, by obtaining a one-time-use key from their provincial health authority.

However, getting people to download an app is difficult and the feds stopped reporting COVID Alert app download updates in February.

According to the COVID Alert app dashboard, it reached 6,893,423 downloads as of February 1, 2022. Only 9 provinces and territories supported the app and only 57,704 one-time keys were issued.

The COVID Alert app cost the federal government $21 million dollar as of February and has sent over 371,000 notifications. News of the COVID Alert app being abandoned took place in late December 2021, while reports noted it was only used 869 times in November of the same year.

Provinces such as B.C. and Alberta opted not to support COVID Alert, while millions was spent marketing the app and encouraging Canadians to download it.

With most COVID-19 restrictions easing across Canada and worldwide, the need for an app like COVID Alert seems unnecessary, as its low app downloads made it ineffective.

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