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Last week, NY State launched COVID Alert NY, an app built on open source code bases. This app allows you to participate in a voluntary network of exposure alerting. COVID Alert NY was built by the NYS Dept. of Health and Tech, along with Google, Apple, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Goldman Sachs, and a coalition of technology and research partners.

Here’s how COVID NY works:

  • Phones that have the app are assigned a random ID that can be exchanged with other phones via Bluetooth technology.
  • Devices that are within six feet of each other for 10 minutes or longer exchange those random IDs.
  • If a person tests positive and reports it on the app, an alert goes out to those with whom they had close contact with, alerting them of potential exposure.
  • The app also serves as a resource hub of daily case count numbers and informs users of the steps they can take to prevent further virus spread.

It’s designed to work by placing privacy first:

  • It uses secure Bluetooth technology, not GPS, that can only detect when two devices are in proximity to each other, not geographic location. It doesn’t collect users’ data on their location or movement.
  • The random ID assigned to your device changes every 15 minutes, and users are not identified to other users, nor is their personal identifiable information shared — not with other users, Google, Apple, or the NYS Department of Health.

This alone will not end the pandemic, but it can slow the spread of the virus by letting people know when they might be contagious and encouraging them to isolate and get tested. Imagine if we had this technology widely deployed back in January and February?


To download Covid Alert NY to your phone:

App Store (for iPhone)

Google Play (for Android)