New app will help Minnesotans find out about COVID-19 exposures

Personal information is not obtained by Google, Apple or the State of Minnesota.
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Governor Tim Walz is expected to unveil new technology that will help slow the spread of COVID-19 in Minnesota, and it's likely that his Monday press conference will be centered on a new website and app that Minnesotans can utilize. 

Image from iOS (8)

The app and website are already available to use. You can download the free app by searching for "COVIDaware MN" in your app store. The website link is here.  

According to the website, the technology is based on Bluetooth tracking that will help "notify you if you have been exposed to COVID-19, so you can reduce the risk of infection for your friends, family, and neighbors, and help Minnesota slow the spread." 

All you have to do is download the app and opt-in to the notification system. At that point, the app creates an anonymous key for your phone that helps protect your identity and location. The key number changes every 10-20 minutes, the website says. 

In short, the app will understand your location and the location of everyone else who uses the app. If anyone using the app tests positive for COVID-19, anyone who was exposed to that person will receive a notification. The app doesn't record or store your location, it only uses it for the purpose of determining if you've been exposed to COVID-19. 

Here's how COVIDaware MN explains the process. 

"Your phone and the phones around you work anonymously in the background, using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology to exchange these privacy-protected keys. This is a passive process that begins once you opt-in. It functions without the app open, and it won't won’t drain your battery. 

"On a daily basis, your phone downloads a list of all the anonymous keys associated with positive COVID-19 cases and checks them against the list of random keys your phone has encountered in the last 14 days.

"If there’s a match, the app will notify you with further instructions from the Minnesota Department of Health about what you need to do to keep you and the people around you safe."

But the only way the app can know if someone has tested positive is for that person to upload a verification code from the test result. Verification codes are provided to people who test positive. 

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Once the code is uploaded, anyone who was exposed to that person will receive a push notification. '

An exposure is based on being within six feet of an infectious person for 15 or more minutes. 

The app does not record your location, the website says, and it does not allow Google, Apple the State of Minnesota to collect information about you. 

Read all about the app's privacy settings here

Walz will talk more about the app at 12:30 p.m. 

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