Wanted: that one useful app to make ‘life easier’

For the last few months, I’ve been focused on nothing more than getting my vaccinations, so that I could do my part in keeping the community safe and bringing back a degree of normalcy to our lives. Now that I’ve received both doses, and once my symptoms subsided, my attention turned quickly to next steps.

Vaccine passports are definitely on the minds of many, but privacy advocates remind us to be cautious about what we sign up for. It would be wonderful if we could standardize on something across Canada at a minimum, but that seems like a pipe-dream at this point. The more I look, the more fractured the landscape becomes.

I’ve compiled the list of apps related to COVID-19 that are currently on my smartphone in case that helps others to narrow the digital playing field.

Firstly, almost a year ago, I downloaded and installed the COVID Alert app. It is “Canada’s free COVID-19 exposure notification app. It can alert you to possible exposures before you have symptoms.”

Another COVID-19 contact tracing app has additional useful features such as self-screening, checking-in to affiliated facilities and one of my favourite features, storing photos of your COVID-19 vaccination documentation and test results. CommunityPass was developed by My Community Health Inc., made up of local health-care professionals in Sault Ste. Marie. I downloaded this app and have my vaccination documents stored in it to be able to find them easily on my phone.

Then, I was told by the pharmacy where I got my second dose to download ArriveCan, which is “the official Government of Canada platform to provide your information when entering Canada.” It is needed if you are travelling internationally to get back into Canada. I downloaded the ArriveCan app, but was surprised that I couldn’t preload it with my vaccination documents.

Speaking of travelling, depending where you want to travel to, you have to fill out different forms before being admitted to the region, like in Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, for example. If you have both doses of the vaccination, you don’t have to show negative COVID-19 tests nor do you have to quarantine to travel there.

I haven’t found anything of the like in Ontario and I’m not sure why. Premier Doug Ford has said no to vaccine passports and to requiring anyone to be vaccinated. Is it any wonder that Ontario has had higher rates of COVID-19 when we don’t have anything implemented for travellers even province to province?

Back in March, I attended a privacy forum hosted by CWA Canada, where Ann Cavoukian, Former Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, reminded us that privacy is directly linked to personal freedom, and that we need to be careful about what digital vaccine/travel/venue passports we use. She said that we need to see through the rhetoric during emergency incidents, that it is not safety OR privacy, it can be both. Cavoukian maintains that users should control their health information: who gets what information, when, and how, and that our information should not be revealed nor sold to unauthorized third parties.

She is involved with the Good Health Pass Collaborative, which, according to its website: “is an open, inclusive, cross-sector initiative, bringing together leading companies and organizations from the technology, health, and travel sectors. Our members are creating a blueprint for interoperable digital health pass systems.” It doesn’t have an app yet, but might become the international standard.

Hopefully, we will soon get one app that takes care of all of our needs, including our privacy, and then I can delete the plethora of apps I’ve acquired to date. Until then, I hope that you may find one useful app one that can make your life easier.

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