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Halifax privacy lawyer supports government rollout of COVID-19 alert app

COVID Alert notifies users if they may have come in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with the virus
The COVID Alert app is available for Apple and Android devices. (Photo/Apple App Store)

A Halifax-based internet and privacy lawyer, says he has downloaded a new COVID-19 exposure notification app being rolled out by the federal government, and encourages others to do the same. 

The mobile app, called COVID Alert, notifies users if they may have come in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with the virus. 

David Fraser says he believes it will help protect communities without invading privacy. 

"Exposure notification is built on the premise of not collecting any personal information," he tells News 95.7's the Sheldon MacLeod Show. "It is incredibly privacy protected."

According to the Government of Canada's website, the app uses Bluetooth to exchange random codes with nearby phones. Every day, it checks a list of random codes from people who tell the app they tested positive. If you've been near one of those codes in the past 14 days, you'll get a notification.

It does not track your location using GPS, or access any personal data or health information.

Fraser says the technology has the ability to fill the gaps of traditional contact tracing.

"It will never replace contact tracing, but it is an additional belt and suspenders," he says. "We have seen the alerts that have gone out about being at a particular park at a particular time, because people don't sign in to go to parks."

The more people who use COVID Alert, the more effective it will be. 

Fraser says surveys have found a large portion of Canadians would use an exposure notification app if they felt their privacy was protected. 

"The government knew from the get go if they didn't protect privacy, and if they weren't transparent then people weren't going to use it, and if people weren't going to use it there is no point in even making it," he says. 

Nova Scotia's department of health still has to partner with the federal government for the app to be fully functional in the province. 

Katie Hartai

About the Author: Katie Hartai

In addition to being a reporter for NEWS 95.7 and, Katie is the producer of The Rick Howe Show
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