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Frequently
asked questions

General

What is COVI?

Designed to protect privacy and human rights, COVI is a mobile application that uses artificial intelligence to empower each of us to fight Covid-19. Made in Canada by a coalition of researchers and experts led by Yoshua Bengio and managed by a not-for-profit, the app helps citizens make real-time decisions daily about their activities, in order to protect themselves, their loved ones and others.

COVI sets us in motion, together, to facilitate a safe gradual lifting of social distancing measures.

What are the main features of COVI?

  1. Protect your privacy and human rights: COVI puts privacy first. Your data is protected, stored in Canada, used only to fight the pandemic and deleted regularly.
  2. Make real-time decisions daily to keep everyone safe: COVI helps you make decisions about your activities every day thanks to personalized recommendations based on your personal level of risk, before you even experience symptoms.
  3. Limit the spread of Covid-19: COVI notifies you to self-isolate or get tested if you’ve likely been exposed to the coronavirus through your interactions with others.
  4. Get back in motion: COVI supports a gradual lifting of social distancing measures by helping us all get smart about the crisis thanks to artificial intelligence powered research done by an independent not-for-profit.

Additional features:

  • User profile setup.
  • Regular self-assessment of symptoms.
  • Test results self-report (eventually validated by health authorities).
  • Location-specific info for an appointment or nearby test centre (coming soon).
  • Proximity “pings” to support in maintaining 2 meter distancing (coming soon).
  • Updated information on number of cases.
  • Access to official information sources on Coronavirus.

Is COVI a contact-tracing app?

COVI uses contact tracing technology. Contact tracing apps use personal mobile devices to create an automatic record of interactions between app users. This “match” allows for exchange of information between smartphones if a user later presents symptoms or is tested Covid-19 positive while protecting the privacy of every user. COVI uses contact tracing to help users decide when it’s best to self-isolate or time to get tested.

COVI adds an additional layer thanks to artificial intelligence. While other contact tracing apps only alert you if you have been in contact with a Covid-positive person, the AI tool behind COVI is able to consider a range of factors including health conditions and symptoms to estimate a personal risk level for each user every day. This makes it possible to notify a user much sooner, often well before any symptoms.

What is contact tracing?

Contact tracing has been done in some form or another for a very long time. When a person is diagnosed with an infectious disease, they are asked to remember who they have been in contact with over the previous weeks, both in order to determine who may have been infected by them and maybe where they themselves were infected.

Until very recently, the process has relied heavily on manual processes and the memory of people who are in a highly stressful situation and probably don’t remember all their interactions. This results in a list of people to contact by public health authorities that is far from complete, though still very helpful. Contact tracing technology has been proven to efficiently complement and enhance this manual process. As part of the fight against Covid-19, many scientific studies have shown that the use of mobile technologies such as COVI can make a big difference in our ability to understand the spread, allocate important resources, make better decisions and save lives.

How is COVI different from other tracing apps?

These are the main differences:

  • COVI does not ask for any information that directly identifies you such as your name or phone number. Some tracing apps do this to provide a list of contacts to public health authorities who can then reach out to each person directly.
  • Thanks to AI, COVI considers all possible factors, not only positive test results. This is very important because the virus is contagious before a person starts showing symptoms. COVI can warn users earlier that they are at risk, which protects more lives.
  • COVI adjusts personal risk levels daily, which means less people will unnecessarily get tested or self-isolate for 14 days.
  • COVI will support public health authorities by providing heat maps of rising risk levels so they can intervene locally before an outbreak.
  • The artificial intelligence tool will seek to understand how the virus spreads beyond what we currently know from clinical studies. This will provide new insights on what we can do to protect each other.

What personal data does COVI collect ?

COVI collects information which is stored and protected on your device:

  • Age, sex and health conditions
  • Self-reported symptoms
  • Self-reported behaviours
  • Coarse geographical location and movement statistics
  • Encounter history (deleted after 30 days)
  • Analytics information about app use
  • Positive test result (with additional consent)

In addition, you can also consent to sharing your age, sex, health conditions, symptoms, behaviors, risk level, coarse geographical location, movement statistics, positive test result and app analytics with COVI Canada in a form that does not directly identify you to help COVI understand the virus and predict personal risk.

COVI does not collect any information that directly identifies you such as your name, phone number or IP address.

Will COVI show me infected people around me?

No. You will not know if a COVI user near you is Covid-19 positive. The personal risk factor is calculated a few times a day, and with a delay relative to the actual moment of encounter. Users cannot use COVI to seek out infected or at-risk individuals.

What are the benefits of COVI for public health authorities?

There are many benefits for the public health authorities.

Here are the main ones:

  • COVI automatically informs users to self-isolate or get tested days ahead of the manual tracing process;
  • COVI provides warning signs for targeted local interventions before there is an outbreak;
  • COVI defines new epidemiological models beyond what we know from clinical studies to better understand how the virus spreads;
  • COVI can predict the impact on the contagion curve to optimize deconfinement strategies.

Overall, COVI will help reduce the number of Covid-19 positive cases and reduce the workload for the health-care system.

Who can use COVI?

COVI can be used in every province and territory across Canada, by anybody 13 years old and over. As long as you have an Apple or Android smartphone to download the app, you can use COVI.

Who built COVI?

The COVI project is led by world-renowned AI researcher Yoshua Bengio at Mila - Quebec AI Institute and brings together a coalition of Canadian researchers, data scientists, privacy experts, software developers, psychologists, epidemiologists and healthcare professionals. The project was developed in collaboration with Public Health authorities and in consultation with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. COVI Canada is an independent not-for-profit organization.

COVI adheres to the Montreal Declaration and its principles of responsible AI, and is the only Covid-19 app in the world supported by UNESCO.

Will someone make money off my data?

No. COVI Canada is an independent not-for-profit organization and the data collected will never be used for commercial purposes.

Can the government, health workers or authorities use COVI to see my location?

No. It is not possible to use COVI to surveil or track a specific person, and the government will not have access to any individual information.

Aggregated data and statistics will be shared with public health authorities to support our fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, such as heat maps of areas with rising risk levels and epidemiological patterns regarding how the coronavirus spreads.

Will COVI be around forever?

No. When the pandemic is over, the app itself and all data will be destroyed. However, the models and technology that were developed by COVI Canada can be used as references if a similar situation occurs in the future.

How do I get in touch with the COVI team?

The fastest way to get in touch with our technical support team is to contact: support@covicanada.org

For general related questions, please contact: info@covicanada.org

I’d like to write an article about COVI; who do I contact?

For all media related inquiries please fill the form.

How does COVI work?

How does COVI work?

  1. Once COVI is installed on your smartphone, you create your profile by entering information that is relevant to the coronavirus such as your age, sex and health status. The app invites you to screen for any symptoms you might be experiencing. COVI does not ask for any information that can directly identify you such as your name or phone number.
  2. As you come into contact with other COVI users, the app creates a record that allows app users to later exchange information about their personal risk levels, while protecting their privacy. This works somewhat like invisible secret handshakes that allow us to stay connected and keep each other safe.
  3. Using all of these clues, COVI estimates your personal risk level every day.
  4. COVI is then able to provide you with updated daily personalized recommendations through your personal dashboard to keep yourself and others safe.
  5. If you’ve likely been exposed to the coronavirus through your interactions with others, COVI will notify you to self-isolate or get tested.

How do I set up COVI and start using it?

When you download COVI and launch it for the first time, you’ll be prompted to choose your language setting, enter your health profile and consent to share data. You’ll also be asked to activate the location services on your phone. Once this is done, you’ll be able to access your dashboard, self-assess your symptoms and start receiving personalized recommendations from COVI on the main screen of your app.

Do I need a data plan in order to use COVI?

COVI requires your device to have a connection to the internet in order to function. A data plan is not required for the app to work. As long as you connect to a WiFi signal once per day, your data will be uploaded and analyzed as intended.

If there is a problem with my COVI app, what should I do?

Please contact our technical support team. We’ll be happy to get you back up and running. support@covicanada.org

Privacy and data

By using COVI, what am I agreeing to?

The Privacy Policy covers the full details, but here’s the short version:

First, you are giving permission to the COVI app to collect data including age, sex, health conditions and a history of your interactions with other COVI users. All this is stored on your phone, and data more than 30 days old gets automatically deleted.

Second, by using this app, you are agreeing to exchange your personal risk level with other users you are in contact with to keep everyone safe, while ensuring your privacy is protected. This information is encrypted and does not directly identify you. COVI does not associate a user’s risk level with information that directly identifies you or disclose to any user where they might have been in contact with a Covid-19 positive person.

Third, you may optionally consent to share data (e.g. age, sex, health conditions, symptoms, risk level, test results and coarse geographical location) with COVI Canada to help us better undersand how the coronavirus spreads and estimate personal risk. This data doesn’t include your name, address, or anything else that directly identifies you. No data is kept longer than 3 months, and you may withdraw your consent at any time.

The data is managed by COVI Canada, a non-profit organization with the sole purpose of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. The data cannot be used for commercial purposes and will never be sold to private companies. It also cannot be used for surveillance or to enforce quarantine.

Have privacy concerns been considered in building COVI?

Yes. COVI was designed as a privacy-conscious app that meets the highest standards of data privacy and protection. Extensive technical safeguards are employed and the system is designed to never directly identify a user and make all the information exchanged encrypted.

COVI is designed to minimize the collection of data and facilitate its deletion. Data is stored on users’ phones with their consent, and any data more than 30 days old gets automatically deleted. Users’ can also decide to delete the app and all their data at any given moment. Users may optionally consent to share data with COVI Canada to help us understand how Covid-19 spreads and improve its risk calculations. No data is kept by COVI Canada longer than 3 months, and consent can be withdrawn at any time.

COVI complies with Canadian privacy laws and will follow all applicable recommendations put forward in the Joint Statement by Federal, Provincial and Territorial Privacy Commissioners on May 7, 2020.

What is the personal data that lives somewhere other than on my phone?

Your personal risk level is exchanged with other app users to keep everyone safe. This information is protected and cannot be used to directly identify you.

You can also consent to sharing data with COVI Canada to allow us to better understand how the coronavirus spreads and estimate risk. This data does not directly identify you and is protected with the highest safeguards.

COVI Canada will share aggregate data and statistics with public health authorities to inform decision making, including heat maps of areas with rising risk, new patterns and epidemiological parameters regarding how the coronavirus spreads.

All the information shared is encrypted to protect your privacy.

How long will my data be used?

Your contact tracing data stored in the COVI app on your device will be deleted after 30 days. Your demographic and health-related information stored in the COVI app will be kept until you delete the application or until you manually delete this data from COVI's settings. Data shared with COVI Canada will be kept for up to three months.

Is there a way for me to delete my data?

You can delete the profile and health conditions information stored on your COVI app, but we will no longer be able to provide the service to you if you do so. You may also delete the COVI app, which will delete all information stored by the COVI app on your device. You can also request that any data shared with COVI Canada be deleted from its servers. (Note: such requests must be made before you delete the app from your phone.)

Can other COVI users see my location or health status?

No. COVI users will never be able to see your location or health status.

Can police forces or intelligence services surveil me if I use COVI?

No. The information in COVI does not directly identify you or other users, and cannot be used for surveillance or to enforce quarantine.

Technology

Why does COVI require location permission?

Location services are used to determine when two users come into contact with each other, so that they can later exchange encrypted information through COVI’s secure system.

Does COVI use GPS?

COVI does not use GPS. It uses Bluetooth to measure contact between two COVI users.

How does COVI measure contact between users?

COVI uses Bluetooth to measure your proximity to other COVI users you come in contact with.

Do you plan to launch a web-based version of the app for those without smartphones?

No. COVI requires communication between users’ devices and would not work in a web-based version.

If there is a problem with my COVI app, what should I do?

Please contact our technical support team. We’ll be happy to get you back up and running.

Are you going to open source the COVI app?

Yes. All our codes will be open for scrutiny and improvement. And, as part of our not-for-profit mission, we want our work to be available to other countries to help in their fight against Covid-19. The codes will be distributed on github. If you are interested in using COVI please contact us at code@covicanada.org for more information.