Yukon Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay released information to Yukoners about the federal government’s COVID Alert app, pictured here, despite limited usefulness inside the territory. (Screen grab)

UPDATED: Yukon privacy commissioner releases information on COVID Alert app

The office of the IPC has said it has no stance on whether Yukoners should download the app

Yukon Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay put out a release on the federal government’s COVID Alert app, despite limited usefulness inside the territory.

The commissioner released a fact sheet on Aug. 5 to explain the new technology, stating that “privacy commissioners from across Canada were involved in reviewing any privacy risks associated with the app and found the risks to be very low.”

The COVID Alert app launched on July 31.

The app does not trace the specific location of the user but uses Bluetooth to exchange random codes with nearby phones. If a user uploads a positive test result, the app can then notify other users if they have exchanged a code with that positive person’s phone in the past 14 days.

So far, only users in Ontario can report positive test results. Alberta announced on Aug. 8 that it will also be adopting the app.

The Yukon is not currently participating in the app, so Yukoners using it will be unable to share if they have been given a positive diagnosis.

During an Aug. 5 press conference, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley was asked about the COVID Alert app and said they are currently watching the eastern pilot program to see how effective it might be locally.

“We’re certainly looking with interest, not just at the development of these apps but how do they actually work in real life and how do they add value to contact tracing?” Hanley said.

“Particularly in a small jurisdiction where we have a lot of advantages in contact tracing compared to a large jurisdiction. It’s easier to contact people and easier to find people, we tend to have very thorough and complete contact tracing. It remains a question of how much added value an app would bring us,” he said.

McLeod-McKay laid out the benefit to Yukoners who download the app.

“If a Yukoner downloads the COVID Alert app and then travels to Ontario, they will be notified if they are in proximity to an Ontarian app user who has uploaded their positive COVID-19 test results into the app,” McLeod-McKay said in a release.

“Yukon app users will also receive this notification if an exposure of this kind occurs in Yukon, or in any other place in Canada, when an Ontarian app user tests positive for the virus and uploads their positive test result,” she said.

The app has other limitations, even for those living in participating jurisdictions. Right now it does not work on Apple or Android phones that are more than five years old.

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

This story has been updated to reflect that the IPC has no public stance on whether or not Yukoners should download the app.

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