Montreal examines use of contact-tracing smartphone apps

The City of Montreal is examining the possible use of smartphone apps to aid in tracking residents infected by COVID-19.

On Friday, public health director Mylene Drouin said she had meetings coming up in which the use of those apps would be discussed. She said that if that approach is adopted, it would be a complementary measure rather than the main focus of the city's contact-tracing strategy.

“There are some limits in using those applications,” she said. “It's like face coverings, it's complementary. The gold standard is still test, test, test.”

She acknowledged that many people would have understandable concerns about privacy and confidentiality. Several provinces have examined the use of contact-tracing apps, which use a device's Bluetooth signal to track who an infected person may have come into contact with.

Watchdog groups have sounded the alarm that the apps could constitute an intrusion into Canadians' right to privacy.

Quebec public health director Horacio Arruda warned in his Friday press conference that such apps are only useful if they are “obtained by a lot of people.”

“It probably won't be mandatory because not everybody has a phone or the technology for this,” he said. “The only way would be to do a lot of promotion of the use, and the person must understand the benefit to themselves or others.” 

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