The Alberta government says it no longer plans to adopt Canada’s COVID Alert exposure notification app for COVID-19.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the province will not be adopting the COVID Alert app being pushed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The reason for ditching COVID Alert? Alberta would have to disable its existing ABTraceTogether contact tracing app, which is a better tool to fight COVID-19, says the Premier.
“A condition of doing so would be turning off the Alberta Trace Together app, which is a key part of our contact tracing system,” Kenney said Friday, according to CTV News.
“We will not do so precisely because the federal app is not a contact tracing app. Now this has nothing to do with one being federal or one being provincial. ABTraceTogether is, from our view, simply a better and more effective public health tool,” added Kenney.
According to Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, she said ABTraceTogether “can actually speed up that contact tracing because it can enable that notification to happen automatically and instantly.”
Recently, ABTraceTogether was dubbed a privacy risk for iPhone users, as the app required a device’s display to be turned on at all times with the app open. But a recent update in September now allows the app to work in the background, according to Kenney.
ABTraceTogether is currently being used by 252,720 residents in Alberta, with 65% of those on iOS and 35% on Android. People in Alberta can still download COVID Alert and get exposure notifications–they just won’t be able to alert others of a positive COVID-19 test result.
Alberta, along with British Columbia, remains adamant against using COVID Alert. B.C. says COVID Alert is too “non-specific” and will not adopt the app until changes are made, and instead will rely on human contact tracers.
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 from their provincial health authority.
Provinces currently supporting COVID Alert:
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
Provinces and Territories Not Supporting COVID Alert:
- British Columbia
- Northwest Territories
Recently, the government of Canada acknowledged there was a bug within the COVID Alert app, and urged Canadians to update to iOS 14.0.1 to resolve the issue. COVID Alert is now also able to give more specific exposure notifications.
As of November 5, COVID Alert has been downloaded over 5.08 million times, with over 3,600 people voluntarily entering in one-time keys.