Alberta will switch over to national coronavirus tracing app

(July 13) Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says the federal government has told Google and Apple not to work with provinces on tracing apps.

Alberta will be switching over to the national version of a coronavirus tracing app, although the timeline on when that will happen is unclear.

The province confirmed to Global News that it hopes to transition to COVID Alert, which is currently only active in Ontario but will soon roll out countrywide.

Health ministry press secretary Steve Buick said in an email Sunday that the province sees the benefit of a single program across the country.

“It had been uncertain if (or) when (the) federal app would be implemented so the priority was to use our own, but now that the federal one is being rolled out, we accept the value of a single national one,” he said.

Alberta’s app, ABTraceTogether, has run into some problems after it was initially launched in May. One major problem was that Apple iOS users needed to have their phone open and the app running in the foreground to record data. Concerns were also raised about its security.

Premier Jason Kenney had said in July that the provincial government was having issues working with Apple and Google on the app development to fix that issue, and that the federal government was involved in the discussions and deliberately delaying the fix.

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Kenney says federal government told Apple, Google not to work with Alberta on contact tracing apps

Currently, there are about 234,000 registered users on ABTraceTogether, according to Alberta Health. The province spent about $650,000 developing the app.

COVID Alert is described it as an exposure notification app — not a contact-tracing app — as it does not track personal data.

In order to trace someone’s COVID-19 exposure, the app uses Bluetooth to exchange random codes with nearby phones. It does not use or access any location data, the website states.

“Several times a day, ‘COVID Alert’ checks a list of codes from people who tell the app they tested positive. You’ll get a notification if a code you received matches one of the positive codes,” the website states.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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