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Coronavirus contact tracing app won't be a quick fix, expert warns

Last Updated Jun 18, 2020 at 11:07 am PDT

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Summary

Some experts are sharing concerns as the feds look to test a contact tracing app

One expert questions how accurate the COVID-19 contact tracing app will be

On privacy concerns, expert says we already surrender information through other apps. online services we're using

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As the federal government prepares to test out a COVID-19 contact tracing app in Ontario, there are concerns some experts are sharing about cyber security.

Some people may not feel comfortable downloading an app such as the one outlined by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Thursday, but an expert says he’s more concerned about questions over the tool’s effectiveness.

Dominic Vogel with the firm Cyber SC has questions about just how accurate the app will be.

“I still think it’s a bit of a silver bullet syndrome, where these tracing apps seem to be a cure-all of sorts, but I’m still quite skeptical, even just of their effectiveness, privacy issues aside,” he tells NEWS 1130.

Related article: Government to test coronavirus contact tracing app

He points out the locating technology on phones can be a bit dubious — you’ve probably experienced this while looking at a map and seeing that locator dot in a place it shouldn’t be.

“I think the big concern here is if this is just going to be ripe with false positives, false negatives. In my mind, it’s going to cause more panic than necessary. And in terms of the trade off, in terms of, you know, are we actually going to get much benefit from it? In my mind, I think it’s going to cause more concern than benefit.”

When it comes to the anonymized data aspect of the app, Vogel says you can think of it kind of like “connect the dots.” Each dot can be thought of as a data point. It has no real identifying feature, but analysts may be able to identify patters.

The usefulness of the data, he explains, is “the context of the pattern around those different data points. Not necessarily the who and what of that data point.”

Vogel is less concerned about the privacy aspect, noting we surrender much of our information through other apps and online services we’re already using.

“I think the privacy will play out properly,” he says.

The app, which was developed with Shopify, Blackberry, and the government of Ontario, will be available for download in July.

The federal government plans to roll the app out nationally once testing in Ontario has concluded.

Trudeau has called it an “extra tool” to help people “move forward with confidence,” while allowing the government to track and trace more exposure, or potential exposure, of the coronavirus across Canada.

Use of the app will be completely voluntary.