Newfoundland and Labrador became the second province to adopt the federal government’s COVID-19 exposure notification app, after announcing its decision to use the app this week.
The app, which is free to download and voluntary, was first launched in partnership with Ontario at the end of July. COVID Alert, as the app is called, is currently available for download across Canada, but is only functional for residents of provinces and territories that have opted into using the app. It is now accessible to residents of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Quebec announced in late August that it would, for the time being, not adopt COVID Alert.
The East Coast province’s decision to adopt the app follows shortly after Quebec announced in late August that it would, for the time being, not adopt the COVID-19 app locally. Quebec Premier François Legault cited personal data protection concerns as one reason the province decided not to go with the federal app. He noted, however, that Quebec may change its opinion at a later date.
Amid privacy concerns, the federal government reiterated that the app uses “strong measures” to protect any data that it collects and does not track the user’s location or collect personally identifiable information.
As part of an ongoing process to assess and further develop the app the government is working with an advisory council headed up by Carole Piovesan, partner and co-founder at INQ Data Law, a Toronto firm specializing in data governance, data ethics, cybersecurity law, privacy and artificial intelligence. The council’s members also include Element AI CEO and co-founder Jean-François Gagné, as well as other private sector members and government officials.
The Government of Canada noted that it is in continued discussion with other provinces and territories to bring their health authorities “on board” with COVID Alert in the coming weeks and months. Some provinces have created their own apps, however, such as Alberta, which developed ABTraceTogether. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has accused the federal government of not allowing his province to work with tech companies like Google and Apple, which collaborated to create contact tracing tech.
According to Minister of Health Patty Hajdu, the app has already been downloaded by more than 2.2 million Canadians. The federal government is also reporting that 112 people have input their one-time key to notify others that they had tested positive for COVID-19.