A week after it released the COVID-19 tracking app COVID Alert DE in Delaware, Ireland-based software development firm NearForm has released COVID Alert PA, an app designed to track the spread COVID-19 in Pennsylvania.
COVID Alert PA relies on your phone’s bluetooth to show when other nearby phones are also running the app. After someone tests positive for COVID-19, the Pennsylvania Department of Health will send a six-digit code to the COVID Alert. The app then will search to see if any nearby devices have been near the infected person’s device for 15 minutes or more. If there have been, those devices will receive exposure alerts.
In an effort to protect user privacy, both apps use anonymous data to identify when an infected person has come into contact with others without having access to personal information.
“Each phone is identified by a unique identifier,” NearForm Technical Director Colm Harte told Technical.ly Delaware. “There’s nothing in that identifier that can be used to identify you, your phone et cetera, and all that stays on your phone — none of that goes back to any central server where anybody can see that data.”
The state’s apps are interoperable — which is important, given that plenty of people cross the states’ shared border each day.
Delaware Gov. John Carney expressed support for COVID Alert DE and is hopeful that Pennsylvania residents will sign up for the app in the large numbers that Delaware residents have.
“Nearly 25,0000 Delawareans have already downloaded COVID Alert DE to help us slow the spread of this virus,” he said in a statement. “By teaming up with Pennsylvania, we are hoping to raise awareness of this important technology, and assist those Delawareans that travel to and from Pennsylvania for their daily commutes. We encourage those who have not yet downloaded the app to consider doing so to protect themselves and their families.”
NearForm previously created a COVID-19 tracking app for use in Ireland and surrounding countries and has plans to launch similar versions of the app in other states in the near future.Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
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