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The federal government will begin testing a contact tracing by using a "completely voluntary" mobile app that can be used anywhere in Canada, announced Prime Minister Trudeau. The app will compile all known active cases of COVID-19 and notify Canadians when they have come in close contact with someone carrying the virus, according to CTV News.
“I want to stress that this will be completely voluntary. It will be up to individual Canadians to decide whether to download the app or not. But the app will be most effective when as many people as possible have it,” said Trudeau, calling the new form of monitoring "crucial" to public health as Canada begins to lift its lockdown measures.
The new software will be managed by federal body, the Canadian Digital Service and they will work in partnership with the Ontario government, Shopify and blackberry.
On Thursday afternoon, Ontario Premier Doug Ford is expected to speak about how the app is going to work in a press conference. It's expected to be available to Canadians in the coming weeks.
“I want to thank him and his government for their leadership and partnership,” said Trudeau. British Columbia will also be working with the federal government on the app.
Canadians who test positive for COVID-19 can upload their status anonymously into the app's database with help from a health-care professional. That will provide other users who have the app with an alert when they've been exposed to someone who has the virus, which should encourage them to consult with their local public health agency.
Initially, Trudeau's administration had planned to have one single contact tracing app that they would "recommend strongly" be used across the country however that planned was met with much pushback from certain provinces who wished to conduct their own contact tracing via phones calls. Other provinces had already done work to launch their own digital app although that may lead to more of a patchwork database that wouldn't be effective in tracing interprovincial spreading.
Many Canadians also worry that the app could breach their privacy rights. There are still many outstanding questions regarding the app's security and whether or not it adequately adheres to the current privacy laws.
Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien issued a joint statement alongside privacy commissioners from both the provinces and territories demanding that governments ensure that Canadian privacy laws be upheld in the process of any applications being developed. One of their recommendations was that app be voluntary and that the monitoring of behaviour must be science based only. They also recommended that the data collected must be de-identified as much as possible as well as being subjected to independent oversight.
“The privacy of Canadians will be fully respected.” said Trudeau on Thursday. “At no time will personal information be collected or shared, and no location services will be used,” .
Canada has recorded over 100,000 cases of COVID-19 to date and almost 2,255,000 tests have been conducted as of June 17.