Alberta releases ABTraceTogether app to prevent COVID-19 spread

by Morinville News Staff

The ABTraceTogether app was announced Friday during the daily COVID-19 briefing. The government says it will enhance the province’s current manual tracing process.

“Our efforts to flatten the curve are proving to be effective, but we must continue to remain vigilant,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health. “Each one of us has a responsibility to do our part in the fight against COVID-19. ABTraceTogether was designed to help protect Albertans and prevent community spread by quickly alerting people who may be at risk. The more Albertans who use it, the better we will be able to protect individuals from being unknowingly exposed and possibly spreading the disease. Give it a try, and encourage your family and friends to do the same. By working together, we can tackle this pandemic.”

AHS currently does contact tracing by interviewing patients who have tested positive for COVID-19, a resource-intensive process AHS says has effectiveness limitations because it relies on the patient’s memory.

The ABTraceTogether app uses wireless Bluetooth technology to allow mobile contact tracing. The government says the app compliments health-care workers and will speed up the current manual tracing process.

The use of the app is voluntary. Users must opt-in.

The government says only the user’s phone number is collected at the time of registering the app and the government says the app does not track the user’s location and does not use GPS.

Data is only stored on the user’s phone in an encrypted format for only 21 days.

Users must consent to sharing their data if they have tested positive for COVID-19.

The government says the only information shared with contact tracers is a random ID of those identified as close contacts after a user is diagnosed with COVID-19.

Users must be within two metres from each other for a total duration of 15 minutes in a 24-hour period in order to be notified as a close contact.

Heather Sweet, NDP Opposition Critic for Democracy & Ethics said Friday that the NDP supports the intent of the TraceTracker app as part of a comprehensive pandemic response.

“The usefulness of this app will be determined by how widely Albertans accept it,” Sweet said. “Government officials in Singapore, where TraceTracker was first introduced, have stated that the app works most effectively if 75 per cent of the general population downloads it. Acceptance depends on trust, and, for that, the government must be fully transparent about the app’s privacy risks, and the steps the government has taken to limit those risks.

Sweet said the NDP were briefed on the app Friday and informed that the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner has 14 outstanding questions about TraceTracker.

“We believe those 14 inquiries should be published by the Government as a matter of transparency and then addressed,” she said.

The app is now available to download for free from the App Store and Google Play.

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