Samantha Li / Staff reporter

Launched last July by the federal government, the national COVID Alert application is used to track people being exposed to coronavirus and their close contacts. Recently, topics of this app are brought up again in several news platforms including Global News and CBC, saying that the app is not used properly and widely enough. In fact, it is not that people are not using the app properly, but is the app itself being poorly built and implemented.

The COVID Alert app uses Bluetooth to detect people’s phones and nearby phones to keep track of possible contacts by user’s accounts. If someone tests positive for COVID-19, there would be a code generated for them to enter into the app. Then the app will notify others who happen to be nearby that person in the last 14 days.

As the “How it works” of the COVID Alert App, people who get infected by the virus need to manually enter the code in order to inform others around. However, according to a news article on CBC, “while the app has been downloaded more than 6.3million times, only 20,000 people have entered the one-time key that lets the app know they have the virus”, which makes the app containing very limited information and therefore unable to do its job effectively.

Moreover, in provinces including British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon, and Nunavut, the COVID Alert app is not activated since they have set up their own platform of tracking COVID exposures. An article on Global News indicates that when asking why they do not activate the COVID Alert app, a spokesperson from B.C. said “Public health and contact tracing experts in B.C. reviewed the federal contact tracing app very carefully and confirmed that the federal app would add significant challenges to their work, without supporting B.C.’s ability to trace and identify COVID cases.”

B.C’s COVID-19 tracking site

The way the COVID Alert is set up also has some issues with usability and security. Since Bluetooth technology is required to turn on with the app every moment, people have to check the background switch regularly so that they will not miss out on the notifications. In addition to that, David Burke from CBC reported that some Fake COVID notification apps and websites aim to steal money and personal data are starting to rise, causing personal information abuse.

After all, the COVID Alert app appears to be not as effective and even a little troublesome. In fact, just as Dr. Craig Jenne, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Calgary, said, “when we’re only seeing a small percentage, in this case under 10 percent, under five percent, of the population using these apps, they’re essentially completely useless.” 


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