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Available Expert - Canada to unveil COVID-19 contact tracing app despite questions about technology’s effectiveness

Friday, June 19, 2020

In July, the Trudeau government will unveil a voluntary smart phone app designed to alert Canadians when they’ve come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The strategy, which typically utilizes Bluetooth to monitor people’s proximity to one another, has been tried in a number of countries but critics have raised questions about the technology’s efficacy and approach to user privacy. 

“These apps have serious drawbacks, and might not be effective, even in principle,” says David Skillicorn, professor of computing at Queen’s University. “Bluetooth, which is used to detect a nearby phone, is a wireless system and so detects any other phone within a few metres. But it can’t tell that the other phone is behind a wall, or behind a screen, or even in a car driving by with the windows closed.” 

“These apps, collectively, have to capture a large number of contacts to actually help with the public health issue,” he says. “It’s been estimated that around 80 per cent of users need to download and use the app to get reasonable effectiveness.” 


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