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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Google, Apple contact tracing enabled in Costa Rica

Costa Rica will enable exposure notifications, a service developed by Google and Apple that uses mobile phones to alert an individual if they have been exposed to Covid-19.

Dubbed “Mascarilla Digital” by Costa Rican authorities, it is a voluntary system with extensive privacy safeguards built in. The service will be enabled nationwide on Wednesday, June 16.

“If a person was 2 meters away from another person, for a minimum of 10 minutes, both phones will exchange secure and anonymous codes using Bluetooth,” the Health Ministry explains. “If the person with whom he was close obtains a positive Covid-19 test result, he can notify others through the application anonymously.”

The notification received by close contacts is informative in nature. It does not mandate a sanitary isolation order.

People who use iPhones can activate the function on their devices in Settings > Exposure Notifications. Android users can opt-in at Settings > Google > Exposure Notifications.

Below is a series of frequently asked questions, as answered by the Health Ministry.

How does ‘Digital Mask’ work?

María and Carlos use the Digital Mask system and had a conversation with little distancing. At this time, both phones exchanged anonymous keys via Bluetooth. Keys do not store, record, or exchange personal information, nor do they exchange phone numbers, location, or use of GPS.

Days later, Carlos tests positive for Covid-19. Carlos will receive a text message indicating an eight (8) digit code, which will be active for 24 hours, to be entered on the platform. By activating the code, Carlos authorizes the application to notify all those contacts who were close to him in the last 10 days. Carlos will not know who he is notifying, and those who receive the message will not know the identity of the person who sent the notification.

Is it voluntary?

Yes, the system is activated and deactivated voluntarily.

What do I do if I have an Apple device and I want to activate it?

You can activate it directly from your operating system, as long as you are using iOS 12.5 or later. People must activate the function on their devices from Settings in “Exposure Notifications.”

What do I do if I have an Android and I want to activate it?

Users must activate the function by entering “Settings,” selecting “Google” and then “Exposure Notifications.” This feature is available for Android version 6.0 onwards.

Can I use it if I have Huawei devices?

The application can be downloaded if your device has Google Services active.

Does the Health Ministry use my personal information?

No, neither the Ministry of Health, nor Google, nor Apple, uses personal information with the activation of this system. It does not request to activate the GPS, so it has no way of knowing your location, and it does not have any type of access to your cell phone, nor your number, nor your photos, nor messages, or any type of data.

Learn more about the privacy safeguards via Google and Apple.

How does it work if you don’t use my personal information?

The application uses Bluetooth, through which it exchanges keys between devices which change every 10 to 20 minutes and do not contain any personal information.

Subsequently, the device that activates the positive code for COVID-19 activates the keys of the last 10 days to notify that there was exposure to a contact. This code does not share the patient’s information either, and no third party has access to it.

Is it already used in other countries?

Yes. As of the launch date in Costa Rica, there are more than 60 countries and regions in the world with the service enabled. Costa Rica uses the most up-to-date version.

How much did the Digital Mask implementation cost?

Through technology developed by Google and Apple, Mascarilla Digital volunteers facilitated the implementation of this system, so it did not have any cost to the Government of Costa Rica.

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