Canadians Share How iOS Gave False COVID-19 Exposure Notifications

Earlier this month, Canadian Digital Service detailed how a bug with iOS 14 caused users to receive  COVID-19 exposure notifications from their iPhone, despite the COVID Alert showing zero exposures.

The federal government told users to update to iOS 14.0.1 to fix the issue, but given how some people rarely update their phones to the latest versions of iOS, it’s unknown how many people are still living with this bug.

The National Post has now detailed the stories of various Canadians who received false exposure notifications from iOS 14, a scary proposition during these tense times with coronavirus. One account is below:

Daniel Gonshor had the same thing happen to him in mid-September. He’s 34-years old and he considers himself pretty tech savvy. He was able to go into the app and break down the exposures log. He spent a whole morning researching online. After all that, he still wasn’t sure what to do.

“You start to really second guess yourself,” he said. “Like, do I have a sore throat? Do I have symptoms? How serious is this? So I went and got a test. It was negative. It was fine. But it was still kind of alarming because they didn’t make it obvious.”

Health Canada says the bug was discovered in late August and Apple fixed the issue with a software update on September 1, 2020. The federal government says exposure notifications from the COVID Alert app should supersede any iOS 14 weekly exposure notifications. Health Canada says they don’t know how many people may have received these false notifications.

Canadian Digital Service previously told iPhone in Canada in a statement, “If you get a notification from your operating system that you have been exposed, check the COVID Alert app before taking action. If the COVID Alert app indicates that you have been exposed to COVID-19, follow public health guidance. Apple device users should update to iOS 13.7 as soon as they can, as Apple has now fixed this issue,” added the spokesperson.

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.

To date, COVID Alert has seen over 4.5 million downloads and is currently supported in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Newfoundland and Labrador.