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Team of Shopify volunteers release COVID case-tracking app

COVID Shield is described as "a private, secure, and easy-to-use tool to help governments launch their own exposure notification systems."
2020-05-22 covid shield app

A group of volunteers at Ottawa-based Shopify has just 'open-sourced' a new app, designed to help governments and local residents track COVID-19 spread and potential exposure.

According to Wikipedia, Open-source software is released under a license in which the copyright holder grants users the rights to study, change, and distribute it to anyone and for any purpose. Essentially, open-source software means it's being developed in a collaborative, public manner.

COVID Shield is described as "a private, secure, and easy-to-use tool to help governments launch their own exposure notification systems." 

On the app's web page it says it is based on the exposure notification technology provided by Apple and Google -- the most privacy-preserving approach currently available.

COVID Shield has been designed by a group of Shopify volunteers who say they want to help slow the spread of COVID-19, so they are releasing COVID Shield free of charge with a flexible open-source license.

The app is made up of three parts: a mobile app, a server, and a web-based results portal.

The web-based results portal is expected to provide healthcare professionals unique temporary codes which can be shared with users who have tested positive for COVID-19. The code gives a user access to upload their random IDs via the mobile app, if they choose. The app makers say no personal information is collected and there is no association between the codes and specific tests.

Use of the portal is optional, as the server can also be used to generate temporary COVID Shield codes.

The server then securely collects and stores random IDs uploaded from the mobile app after a confirmed positive test result. It also generates unique temporary codes which grant permission for people with a positive COVID-19 test result to upload their random IDs. 

The Shopify volunteers sat the server is flexible enough to be deployed at various levels of government.

Finally, the mobile app itself runs in the background and requires no user interaction after onboarding. It uses Bluetooth to collect and share random IDs with nearby phones with COVID Shield installed. If a user tests positive for COVID-19, they can choose to anonymously share their data so others can be notified of possible exposure. 

Sharing of random IDs is voluntary and only possible with a positive test result confirmed by a health care professional. COVID Shield periodically downloads the shared random IDs from the server and compares them on each user's device to determine if a possible exposure has occurred.

To learn more about COVID Shield, click here.


Mike Vlasveld

About the Author: Mike Vlasveld

Mike Vlasveld, Digital Editor, CityNews Ottawa & the Valley
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