DENVER (KDVR) — The Colorado Department of Public Health has rolled out a new app designed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, and improve contact tracing.
You may have already seen the notification pop up on your phone.
CO Exposure Notifications is a free, voluntary service that alerts people who have been in proximity to someone with COVID-19, long enough to be at risk for an infection.
“This is a game changer for us in Colorado,” said Sarah Tuneberg CDPHE COVID-19 advisor, last week during a presentation.
The technology is especially meant to help alert people who may have had a brief encounter with someone that later tests positive for COVID-19.
During contact tracing, health officials don’t always have adequate information for everyone an infected person has come into contact with.
The opt-in technology—which uses Bluetooth, not GPS—keeps track of those who signed up for the service, without sharing data.
“While they’re doing that, their mobile phones are exchanging non-identifiable tokens—strings of random letters and numbers and change frequently,” said Tuneberg.
We had an independent IT expert verify that, by taking a look at the technology’s public code.
“The code is available for anyone to look at. What that initially tells me is they’re not trying to hide anything,” said Donald McLaughlin, lead consultant for CPCyber. “The nice thing about this app is it saves everything to your device locally. It doesn’t actually get sent up to a server until someone says they have COVID.”
If a user tests positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day period, and chooses to upload their results, then all other users who are at risk for infection will receive an alert of potential exposure.
“It doesn’t store, transmit, or collect any personal information—so your identity is never revealed,” said Tuneberg, who said they waited until October to release the technology to make sure it was completely secure and privacy protected.
McLaughlin tested out that claim on Monday.
“I did some field testing and some field work on it. So I installed it on two different phones so they could talk to each other. Then I essentially listened for the wireless traffic, and it was not broadcasting anything personal. It was all random,” he explained.
iPhone users will have the option to opt in or out, once the new icon shows up in their settings.
Android users can find the app in the Play Store.
Tuneberg says the goal is to get at least 15% of the state’s population to opt in.
“One of the most exciting statistics and outcomes of this Oxford model is that with just 15% of individuals in any community adopting and enabling the exposure notifications technology, we can experience an 8% reductions in infections and a 6% reduction in deaths,” she explained.
For more information on the technology, and how to sign up, click here: addyourphone.com.