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Alberta to Switch to COVID Alert App and Ditch ABTraceTogether

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Alberta has agreed to adopt Canada’s COVID Alert exposure notification app, and ditch its ABTraceTogether contact tracing app.

The province confirmed the move to The Globe and Mail, with Alberta’s Health Minister, Steve Buick, saying “We recognize and accept that Canada is moving to a national tracing app.”

Alberta’s ABTraceTogether has generated 234,000 active users and the province will now prioritize a seamless switch over to COVID Alert, which most likely means downloading the latter and deleting the province’s contact tracing app. ABTraceTogether launched back in May and is based on Singapore’s contact tracing app model.

There is no timeline on when Alberta will adopt COVID Alert, but the province said it’s up to the federal government.

ABTraceTogether has been dubbed a security concern on iPhones as users must leave their smartphone displays on and the app open for it to work properly. The app records user data and phone numbers, used to contact those potentially exposed to COVID-19.

Canada’s COVID Alert app is decentralized and based on Apple and Google Exposure Notification API, which allows for anonymous Bluetooth “handshakes” in the system background. Users who test positive for COVID-19 can decide whether they want to anonymously share their diagnosis and alert others who may have been in contact for 15 minutes and within two metres.

Apple and Google are only allowing one use of its API per country for an exposure notification app. Alberta tried relentlessly to pressure the federal government to allow ABTraceTogether to use Apple and Google’s technology as well, but that wasn’t going to happen.

COVID Alert is expected to launch in Newfoundland and Labrador in early September. The app has already surpassed 1.5 million downloads, while the federal government will spend $10 million to market the app.

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