Leading-Edge Law: Virginia’s new virus-alert app for smartphone passes the privacy test | Business News

After investigating and speaking with Jeff Stover, director of health informatics and integrated surveillance systems at VDH, my privacy concerns are allayed.

Stover said the app was designed to maximize user trust by avoiding use of any information-gathering or technology that could be used for snooping. The app will not identify you.

The app is built upon functionality recently added to operating systems by Google and Apple that allows phones to store and exchange anonymous keys over Bluetooth, he said.

No information regarding app users is kept on a central server. There is no registration process. The app keeps records by anonymous Bluetooth keys stored only on users’ phones. The app collects no GPS or personally identifying information.

The app of those notified will tell the user only that he or she had prolonged, recent exposure to an unnamed person who reported on the app testing positive for COVID-19.

The app is gaining traction. As of Sept. 21, about 548,000 people have downloaded it, Stover said. Just under 200 app users have received a positive COVID-19 diagnosis and been provided with a PIN to enter into the app to notify the system.

The app is giving notices to those exposed. On Sept. 20, for instance, it notified 245 people. It notified 231 more the following day.

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