Canada's 'COVID Alert' App Using Apple's Exposure Notification API Now Available

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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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Canada today released a new COVID-19 contact tracing app called COVID Alert, as noted by iPhone in Canada. COVID Alert takes advantage of Apple and Google's privacy-focused Exposure Notification API to alert people when they've come into contact with someone who has the coronavirus.


As with all COVID-19 contact tracing apps, COVID Alert uses Bluetooth to exchange random, anonymized codes with nearby phones, determining how close someone is by the strength of the Bluetooth signal.


If someone with COVID Alert tests positive for the virus, they can opt to enter that information into the app, and each person they've been in contact with will then receive an alert. COVID Alert collects no location information or personally identifiable data, and was built by Health Canada with the Canadian Digital Service.
COVID Alert has no way of knowing:

- your location - COVID Alert does not use GPS or location services
- your name or address
- the place or time you were near someone
- if you're currently near someone who was previously diagnosed
According to the app's description, provincial and territorial governments are working to support COVID Alert across Canada, and in some places, people can't yet report a COVID-19 diagnosis. At the current time, health authorities in Ontario are distributing one-time keys to people who are diagnosed with the coronavirus, and other territories and provinces will be "coming on board soon."

Even though the system is still rolling out in some areas, Canada recommends all Canadians install the app, which can be downloaded from the iOS App Store. iOS 13 is required for Exposure Notification apps, as iOS 14 does not support the API. [Direct Link]

Multiple countries have built apps using the Exposure Notification API so far, including Switzerland, Latvia, Italy, Germany, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Ireland, Croatia, and Denmark.

Several U.S. states are working on apps that use the API, including Alabama, North Dakota, and South Carolina, but no contact tracing apps that take advantage of the tool have been released in the United States to date.

Article Link: Canada's 'COVID Alert' App Using Apple's Exposure Notification API Now Available
 

madmin

macrumors regular
Jun 14, 2012
222
480
"COVID Alert has no way of knowing"

Not strictly true unless you also protect your DNS queries. Pretty certain than any self-respecting member of the 5 eyes has access to any open DNS queries. The good news is that thanks to work by Tommy Pauly (etc) at Apple, protecting your DNS on iOS is probably going to become easier for non-technical users.
 
  • Haha
Reactions: niji

ViDeOmAnCiNi

macrumors member
Sep 15, 2016
51
114
AZ
Sure wish there was just a universal COVID-19 tracing APP that you can install and use anywhere in the world. Since it's all bluetooth talking it should be limited to the people you come into contact with in your area. USA is way behind on these types of apps. like asked above, maybe can be used generically?
 

Cubsfan

macrumors member
Jun 19, 2007
87
5
Has there been any news on the effectiveness of these? I know several countries implemented them, but I haven't seen any results.
 

Mr. Heckles

macrumors 6502a
Mar 20, 2018
647
619
Around
I'm in Ontario and it's not working on my iPhone running iOS 14. The COVID-19 Exposure Logging setting doesn't allow me to turn it on, citing "Not available in your region".
This is why:
Even though the system is still rolling out in some areas, Canada recommends all Canadians install the app, which can be downloaded from the iOS App Store. iOS 13 is required for Exposure Notification apps, as iOS 14 does not support the API.
 

Mr. Heckles

macrumors 6502a
Mar 20, 2018
647
619
Around
Sure wish there was just a universal COVID-19 tracing APP that you can install and use anywhere in the world. Since it's all bluetooth talking it should be limited to the people you come into contact with in your area. USA is way behind on these types of apps. like asked above, maybe can be used generically?
I agree. I hope someone knows of one for the USA. I actually downloaded this one and when it asked what providence I am in, I hit "prefer not to say". I'm thinking as long as it uses Apple's API, it should work? I can't see why it wouldn't.
 

vailMike

macrumors newbie
Dec 15, 2014
10
23
i miss the old days when it was just assumed USA as a world leader would have this app and we could advise other countries on improving their communication/health/recovery. So sad having to read through the list of countries that have implemented the Apple/Google API and not seeing USA as one of them as our death toll for COVID keeps rising and now is over 150k people.
 

itsmilo

macrumors 68040
Sep 15, 2016
3,371
7,340
Berlin, Germany
According to the experience in Germany, the API still has quite some bugs like background refresh not working properly unless you open the app manually once per day
 

ArtOfWarfare

macrumors G3
Nov 26, 2007
8,750
4,439
I agree. I hope someone knows of one for the USA. I actually downloaded this one and when it asked what providence I am in, I hit "prefer not to say". I'm thinking as long as it uses Apple's API, it should work? I can't see why it wouldn't.
No. Apple has specified that only governments can make these apps, and that the apps can only be distributed to the citizens of the same territory as the government.

If Apple didn't have a monopoly on iOS app distribution, we could have a global app made that simply works for everyone. But the fanbois here will insist that Apple doesn't have a monopoly, or even if they admit the monopoly, that the additional security from viruses is worth it.

So basically, we've allowed everyone to get an actual virus that kills people so that iOS can be even more free of viruses than MacOS (which is well known for how many viruses it has.)
 

The Stig

macrumors 6502a
Nov 4, 2006
676
8
On the track
I'm in Ontario and it's not working on my iPhone running iOS 14. The COVID-19 Exposure Logging setting doesn't allow me to turn it on, citing "Not available in your region".
Same for me in New Brunswick. I'm going to get my wife to see if it works on her iPhone X on iOS 13
 

gk4

macrumors member
Mar 6, 2010
73
127
"COVID Alert has no way of knowing"

Not strictly true unless you also protect your DNS queries. Pretty certain than any self-respecting member of the 5 eyes has access to any open DNS queries. The good news is that thanks to work by Tommy Pauly (etc) at Apple, protecting your DNS on iOS is probably going to become easier for non-technical users.
Which one of those things are you referring to? It might be possible to gain some of that info if your were spying on DNS queries, but there are multiple things on there that you couldn't get from DNS queries. For example, a list of people you were near. There's no way a DNS query could obtain that info as it isn't even being send anywhere. It lives on your phone.
 

jicon

macrumors 6502
Nov 29, 2004
445
209
Toronto, ON
i miss the old days when it was just assumed USA as a world leader would have this app and we could advise other countries on improving their communication/health/recovery. So sad having to read through the list of countries that have implemented the Apple/Google API and not seeing USA as one of them as our death toll for COVID keeps rising and now is over 150k people.
The irony is I think this is one of the only Apple services (Alright, Google has some input on this one as well) where something is available outside the USA first. Things like iTunes, Apple Pay, ECG, etc were(are) a bit of a waiting game for quite a few people.

The one concerning piece is the slow uptake of similar apps in Europe, thus negating its effectiveness for the most part... but one more bit of help, the better. Now just need to get this working on iOS14 beta...
 

torontotim

macrumors member
Jul 29, 2019
47
104
"COVID Alert has no way of knowing"

Not strictly true unless you also protect your DNS queries. Pretty certain than any self-respecting member of the 5 eyes has access to any open DNS queries. The good news is that thanks to work by Tommy Pauly (etc) at Apple, protecting your DNS on iOS is probably going to become easier for non-technical users.
I frankly don't care if it knows my shoe size and color of my underwear. Privacy disappeared decades ago. If you're connected, you're public. Don't take pictures you don't want to be seen by anyone, don't type emails or texts you don't want to be read by the world.
 

madmin

macrumors regular
Jun 14, 2012
222
480
Which one of those things are you referring to? It might be possible to gain some of that info if your were spying on DNS queries, but there are multiple things on there that you couldn't get from DNS queries. For example, a list of people you were near. There's no way a DNS query could obtain that info as it isn't even being send anywhere. It lives on your phone.
The DNS is one of the most significant leaks of data about an individuals activity on the Internet. That includes your location as well as those around you. The IETF have published various RFCs that document that everything you do online leaks to the DNS. For more information see dnsprivacy.org
 

iStorm

macrumors member
Sep 18, 2012
90
66
I assume you can’t even download it in the US App Store. Each state will have to release they’re own app, and only a few states have said so far that they’ll participate with the Exposure API. It’s been a disorganized mess.
Exactly. My state probably won't even make their own as they're recommending us to use the app developed by another state.
 
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