Residents of Ontario can now download a new app that can tell them whether they have been near someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 over the previous two weeks.
But while government officials say the goal is to make the COVID Alert contact notification app available across the country and are in talks with other provinces, they can’t state yet when it will be available outside Ontario. The Android version can be found here.
They also haven’t explained why only one province has agreed to adopt what was supposed to be a national app.
COVID Alert is the federal government’s latest move in the battle to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as Canada’s economy gradually reopens. Here’s how it works:
- You start by downloading the app to your smartphone.
- That will allow the phone to use Bluetooth technology to exchange signals with nearby phones.
- If someone tests positive for COVID, their public health authority will give them a one-time key to enter into the app.
- The app will then send out notices to every phone that has been within two metres of the infected person’s phone for at least 15 minutes over the previous 14 days — as long as those other phones also carry the app.
- Those who receive a notification will receive instructions on what to do next.
Officials say that the app will become more effective as more people download it — and they stress that it’s a notification app, not a contact-tracing app.
App is voluntary
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has downloaded the app.
“I want to be clear — this app isn’t mandatory,” he told reporters. “It’s completely voluntary to download and to use.”
Watch: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explains new COVID Alert app
Trudeau said the federal government is close to working out an agreement with the Atlantic provinces to integrate their systems with the app. The federal government says it is also talking with other provinces and territories about integrating their systems but hasn’t indicated when other provinces might adopt the app.
While anyone across Canada can download the app, they will receive alerts only if they have been near someone who has tested positive in a province that has integrated the app with its testing system, and who has downloaded the app.
While the Android version requires users to turn on their location settings, officials maintain the app will not know a user’s location, name or address. It also won’t track exactly when the user was near someone who tested positive, or whether they are currently near someone who has tested positive.
For users of Apple devices, the app works on the iOS 13.5 operating system and newer systems. That means the app might not work on some older smartphones, and some users might have to upgrade their operating systems.
Officials said the government has been working with federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien’s office to address any privacy concerns.
Therrien endorsed the app on Friday, saying that he plans to download it himself.
“Canadians can opt to use this technology, knowing it includes very significant privacy protections,” he wrote in a statement.
Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner Patricia Kosseim agreed, saying her office’s review found strong measures to protect privacy.
“I support the use of exposure notification technology to help control the spread of COVID-19, provided it is used in the way it’s been designed to respect the privacy of Ontarians,” said Kosseim. “This app will only work if people trust their personal information will be protected and choose to use the technology.”
Therrien and Kosseim said, however, that their endorsements are conditioned on the app’s use being voluntary and the government continuing to monitor it.
Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at email@example.com
How the U.S. could block access to TikTok, WeChat – Global News
President Donald Trump has threatened to ban the short-video app TikTok and messaging service WeChat by late September on grounds that the Chinese-owned apps pose a national security threat. It would mark the first time the United States has attempted to shut down widely used mobile internet apps.
How would the U.S. go about blocking access to TikTok and WeChat?
The administration could order smartphone software giants Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google to remove WeChat and TikTok from their app stores.
When the Indian government in June banned 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok and WeChat, it asked Google and Apple to remove the apps from their app stores, two sources told Reuters. Both companies complied.
It would be a rare and possibly unprecedented step for the United States: Apple has not disclosed any app takedown requests from the U.S. government since it started publishing information on such requests in the second half of 2018.
The government could also order the apps to stop offering access to U.S. users by threatening them with legal repercussions. In India, some banned apps pulled themselves from app stores.
If I already have TikTok and WeChat on my phone, will I still be able to use them?
‘Not planning on going anywhere’: TikTok puts out message as Trump says he plans to ban company in the U.S.
The apps would probably work, but government orders may bar updates, blocking access to new features and bug fixes.
Jay Kaplan, CEO of cybersecurity firm Synack and a former National Security Agency cybersecurity analyst, said it is “highly probable” Apple and Google can remotely disable installed apps, though experts were not aware of any instance in which they have done that recently. Apple and Google declined to comment.
Could users download the apps somewhere else?
Users with phones running Google’s Android can install apps from alternatives to Google’s official app store. Theoretically, they could download WeChat or TikTok from the companies’ websites.
Using alternatives to Apple’s App Store to install apps is more difficult, though not impossible. Ron Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, which has done extensive technical and censorship analysis of WeChat, said using unofficial stores carries the risk of installing versions of popular apps altered with viruses or scams.
Would U.S. users be able to access Web versions of the app?
U.S.-based hosting services such as Amazon.com Inc’s AWS and content delivery providers such as Akamai Technologies Inc could be banned from doing business with targeted apps, said Angelique Medina, director of product marketing at network intelligence firm ThousandEyes. Hosting sites outside the United States could still service Americans, but likely at slower speeds.
Could internet service providers block users from accessing these services?
Trump threatens to ban TikTok unless it becomes U.S.-owned
The government could order ISPs to block users from accessing WeChat’s and TikTok’s servers, as China does to enforce its Great Firewall. But it would not be an easy task for the U.S. government because the United States has thousands more ISPs than China, said Chester Wisniewski, a researcher at cybersecurity provider Sophos. A U.S. order to ISPs also could be challenged in court, legal experts say.
In India, the government did order telecom companies and other internet providers to block the Chinese-origin apps, according to notices seen by Reuters. Experts say there are no known cases of the U.S. ordering ISPs to ban access to sites.
What about VPNs?
Americans could use virtual private networks, or VPNs, to circumvent ISP blocks and browse the internet as if they were overseas. This is how internet users in China are able to reach services, such as Facebook, banned by the Great Firewall. Network experts said the same loophole would exist in the United States.
© 2020 Reuters
4 more Vancouver flights added to COVID-19 exposure list – CTV News Vancouver
Another four flights have been added to the BC Centre for Disease Control’s COVID-19 exposures list.
All four either arrived or departed from Vancouver late last month. Three were domestic, while one was international.
The first flight landed in Vancouver from Toronto on July 24. The flight number is Air Canada 119, and rows 12 to 18 are believed to be most at risk of exposure to the virus.
The second flight departed from Vancouver for Edmonton three days later, on July 27. That flight number is WestJet 186. People in rows two to eight may be most at risk of COVID-19 exposure.
The same route – WestJet 186 from Vancouver to Edmonton – also had a COVID-19 exposure on July 30. The highest-risk rows on that day’s flight were rows six to 12.
Finally, a July 29 flight that landed in Vancouver after leaving from Amsterdam was also added to the BCCDC’s list. That flight, KLM 681, had an exposure somewhere in rows 31 to 35.
Since the start of July, 21 domestic flights and 21 international flights have been added to B.C.’s exposures list.
Anyone on one of the domestic flights should self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days. Anyone arriving internationally is required to isolate and monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days.
B.C. health officials no longer directly contact people who were seated near a confirmed case of COVID-19 on a flight. Instead, the BCCDC provides updates on flights with confirmed cases as it becomes aware of them.
A full list of recent exposures can be found on the BCCDC’s website.
Inflation Is Back–and the Market Rally Is Back With It – Barron's
The big news of the day was the consumer price index, which rose 0.6% in July from June. The core CPI, which also rose 0.6%, experienced its biggest month-over-month game since 1991. This might seem concerning—high inflation is bad right?—but is more likely a reflection of the recovery than anything else. “It is important, up front, to be clear about what I think this is and what it is not,” writes Amherst Pierpont Securities’ Stephen Stanley. “It is NOT the start of a persistent trend of accelerating inflation. It IS a much larger and quicker reversal of the one-off price drops seen during the lockdowns.”
And today, it’s helping the market head higher.
(GOLD) has advanced 1.1% after getting upgraded to Buy from Hold at Canaccord.
(DE) has fallen 0.6% after getting cut to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank.
(HD) has risen 2.6% after getting raised to Accumulate from Hold at Gordon Haskett.
(AN) has jumped 5.5% after getting upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Guggenheim.
Write to Ben Levisohn at Ben.Levisohn@barrons.com
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