Federal government launching national contact tracing app in collaboration with Shopify, BlackBerry

The Government of Canada is set to launch a national app for contact tracing that was developed in partnership with Canadian tech companies Shopify and BlackBerry. The app is set to be available in early July.

Trudeau said no location services will be used on the app, stating “the privacy of Canadians will be fully respected.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the app on Thursday, noting that it will first be available in Ontario, before becoming available nationwide in the coming weeks. The federal and provincial government of Ontario are set to begin testing the app, which will allow Canadians to opt-in, download, and track how they may have come into contact with COVID-19.

The prime minister said his government has also been working with other provinces, pointing to British Columbia, specifically, on launching the contact tracing app. He said it is set to become available nationwide in the coming weeks. In a subsequent press briefing, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the app will alert Ontarians if they’ve been exposed to someone infected with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.

Stressing it will be voluntary, Trudeau encouraged Canadians to adopt the app, expressing that it will be most effective when as many people as possible use it. The prime minister also addressed privacy and security concerns, which have arisen as governments look to adopt these apps that will track citizens. He said that no location services will be used on the app, stating “the privacy of Canadians will be fully respected.”

When pressed on the security of the app, Trudeau added that the data collected will be stored in a national database through randomized codes, and the government worked with the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, BlackBerry, and Shopify to ensure the data is private and anonymous.

He called the app “transformative” for the re-opening of the Canadian economy, noting that if more than 50 percent of the population adopt the app it will become “extraordinarily useful.” Trudeau stated that more than 30 million smartphones should be able to access and download the app.

Each province and territory will be able to customize the app, but it will operate as one single application that operates across domestic borders. Premier Doug Ford is set to announce further details on the app later today.

The Government of Canada has been working to develop a contact tracing app over the last couple of months. In May, Trudeau noted the government had been in talks with Apple and Google, the two tech giants having worked together to develop a contact tracing app. Many countries have expressed interest in building contact tracing phone apps using the Apple and Google technology.

At the same time, Shopify announced the creation of its contact tracing app, COVID Shield, built off of the exposure notification technology provided by Apple and Google.

Image source Justin Trudeau Flickr account

Meagan Simpson

Meagan Simpson

Meagan is the Associate Editor for BetaKit. A tech writer that is super proud to showcase the Canadian tech scene. Background in almost every type of journalism from sports to politics. Podcast and Harry Potter nerd, photographer and crazy cat lady.