COVID Alert App Bug Stopped Exposure Checks for Nearly 2 Weeks in November

Canada’s COVID Alert app for COVID-19 exposure notifications stopped working for close to two weeks in November for iOS and Android users.

The bug was fixed in a November 23rd update, detailing it had addressed a “bug causing gaps in exposure checks for some users.” Those without the updated version of COVID Alert run the risk of not getting notified about exposure to someone positive with COVID-19.

The federal government confirmed to CBC News there was indeed a bug, which was noticed as far back as November 12 on the Google Play Store:

Bianca Healy, a spokesperson for the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, which houses the app’s development team, confirmed in an email Thursday evening that “on some devices, if the app was not opened by the user for an extended period of time, COVID Alert would stop checking in the background for the random codes that would trigger a notification that a user may have been exposed to COVID-19. This bug has now been fixed.”

Healy said the app’s built-in privacy features prevent federal officials from knowing how many users may have been affected.

“We encourage Canadians to update COVID Alert as soon as possible,” she wrote. “They can also open the app to ensure that COVID Alert is checking for potential exposures.”

Despite B.C. and Alberta seeing a huge surge in COVID-19 cases, both provinces refuse to implement COVID Alert. #forshame

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:

  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
  • Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Ontario
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
  • Nova Scotia
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Northwest Territories

Still waiting for:

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Nunavut
  • Yukon

Download links: 

As of November 29, COVID Alert has been downloaded 5.57 million times, with 6,813 people voluntarily entering in one-time keys, according to the federal government.