What is ABTraceTogether?
ABTraceTogether is a mobile app that enables community-driven contact tracing to support existing efforts to fight COVID-19. ABTraceTogether is an integrated public health tool that complements manual contact tracing completed by public health officials.
How does the ABTraceTogether app work?
The ABTraceTogether app uses a secure, community-driven approach where mobile devices exchange Bluetooth-enabled secure encrypted tokens when another device with the app installed is detected nearby. No other information is shared.
If an Albertan tests positive for COVID-19, a Contact Tracer from Alberta Health Services (AHS) will get in touch with the infected person using contact information provided at the testing center. This process does not change from existing AHS leading practices.
Contact Tracers are individuals who work for AHS. They will contact an infected person to determine others who may have been exposed to the infected person over the previous 21 days.
When an infected person is contacted by a Contact Tracer, the infected person will be asked if they use the ABTraceTogether app. If the infected person has the app, they will be asked to voluntarily upload the encrypted data from the app to Alberta Health Services. This information will be critical to help increase the speed and effectiveness of Alberta’s COVID-19 response.
Once AHS receives the encrypted data, AHS Contact Tracers will be able to use that information to reach the other app users who have had close contact with the infected person.
Quickly identifying the people that have been in close contact with the infected person will enable AHS to get them the guidance and care they need and to get them to self-isolate, reducing the spread of COVID-19 and helping them protect their family, friends and community.
Why is the Government of Alberta continuing to support ABTraceTogether?
Alberta continues to use the ABTraceTogether app because the app supports enhanced contact tracing in our province. It is directly integrated into Alberta’s contact tracing system and is a part of Alberta’s approach to combat COVID-19.
When a person tests positive for COVID-19, ABTraceTogether provides a public health notification to the people who were in close contact with that person, ensuring that those who are at risk are notified to isolate and protect those around them.
With the emergence of COVID-19 variants, it is even more important to support Alberta’s contact tracers by providing them with information to assess an individual’s risk of exposure and to trace the source of infection to quickly prevent an outbreak that could lead to community spread.
How do I use the ABTraceTogether app?
You can use the ABTraceTogether app by downloading it from your app store on every mobile device you regularly use.
After set up is complete: Keep Bluetooth turned on and the app open in the background until the end of the outbreak.
The ABTraceTogether app runs in the background to keep you and those around you safe.
Please refer to the “Why does ABTraceTogether app need Location Permission for Android?” section of the FAQs for more information on location permissions.
How do I know that my app is working?
If you’re an Android user
You’ll see a sticky notification under your phone's Notifications panel that lets you know the app is up and running.
If you’re an iOS user
If the system detects that your app hasn't been working for a period of time, you will be sent a notification with instructions on how to troubleshoot.
How long should I keep the app running?
Please keep the app running with Bluetooth enabled at all times. It is recommended to use the app for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak.
You can also disable the app’s functionality any time by turning off Bluetooth permissions or deleting it. Deleting the app will remove all stored data on your phone.
What happens if I was in close contact with another app user who tests positive for COVID-19?
Alberta Health Services Contact Tracers will call you using the mobile number you registered on the app. They’ll provide you the guidance and information you need to minimize further transmission.
If you test positive for COVID-19, Alberta Health Services will ask for you to upload your encounter log from the AB TraceTogether app from the last 21 days. This information will only be accessed by Alberta Health Services. This helps contact tracers to quickly reach out to people you may have had close contact with.
I suspect that I might have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19. Can I offer to upload my data to check?
The ABTraceTogether app allows for data upload only when you’ve been asked for it by contact tracers or have been prompted to do so via MyHealth Records (MHR). If you test positive for COVID-19, contact tracers from Alberta Health Services will ask you to upload your encounter log from the ABTraceTogether app. Or, you will be prompted to upload your data to MHR through a self service flow. This information will only be available to contact tracers with Alberta Health Services.
Will ABTraceTogether work if I travel out of province?
Yes. ABTraceTogether will continue to work if you travel out of province. However, ABTraceTogether will only be able to record encounters with individuals who also have the app.
How close do I need to be in order for my phone’s ABTraceTogether app to record an encounter with another?
The app will log all encounters within 10 meters. Contact tracers will only be contacting those who have come within close contact from the data uploaded.
Does my phone need to be unlocked for it to record an encounter?
No, the app will work regardless of the phone being locked or unlocked. By integrating with the new Herald Protocol in update 2.0, the app will record encounters even when the phone is locked.
What happens if I have two smartphones that I regularly use?
To be effective, it is recommended that you download the ABTraceTogether app to one smartphone that you carry with you at all times. If you rotate between smartphones, it is recommended that you download the app to both.
I receive an error message stating I've entered an invalid pin when I enter my phone number. How do I fix this?
Your WiFi network may have a security system that is blocking the app from sending you a PIN, resulting in the error message.
To fix this, take your phone off of WiFi and complete the registration process using data.
What is changing in the latest ABTT update (version 2.3)?
- Widgets that display more COVID-19 statistics, including new cases and vaccines administered, are available for both iOS and Android versions.
- A “pause” feature allows users to pause the detection of other devices over a scheduled time span (up to 8 hours) to improve battery usage.
- The home screen of the app displays more information, such as case numbers, vaccinations and an interactive map detailing the number of active cases by local area.
- New health guidance measures are displayed when they are changed by public health.
- Added more information about how users will be notified if they are a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case in the “Learn More” section of the app.
- Links directly to the COVID-19 self-assessment tool.
How do I install the new ABTT widgets?
The process is the same as installing any other widgets on your iOS or Android device. Simply navigate to the add widget functionality on your device and scroll through the available widgets. With ABTT version 2.3 installed, there should be an option within the list of available widgets to install an ABTT widget that will display COVID-19 data.
How does the new Pause Schedule feature work?
Users are able to pause their phone from detecting other devices for up to 8 hours daily to help reduce battery usage. Your chosen pause schedule will automatically pause the detection of other devices in the selected timeframe, ideally during a time when users know they will not be in close contact with others (for example: overnight). The home screen will be modified when Pause Mode is on to display that the app is no longer detecting devices. Detection can be resumed at any time.
ABTraceTogether and privacy
What data is collected? Are you able to see my personal data?
During the app set up, the only personal data we collect is your mobile number, so Alberta Health Services can contact you quickly if you were in close proximity to a COVID-19 case.
With your consent, the ABTraceTogether app exchanges Bluetooth proximity data with nearby phones running the same app. This data is anonymized and encrypted, and does not reveal your identity or the other person's identity. In order to measure distance, information about your phone model and the signal strength recorded is also shared, since different phone models transmit at a different power.
This data is stored only on your phone, and is not shared with Alberta Health Services, and is cleared after 21 days. Should Alberta Health Services need the data for contact tracing, they will ask you directly to share it with them and enable an upload of your contact tracing logs.
The ABTraceTogether app also collects anonymized app utilization data to improve the app across different phone models, and to provide a better experience to our users.
How is my privacy protected?
Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services are committed to protecting your privacy, and chose a contact tracing solution that was designed with privacy in mind, including the following key features:
- Geolocation data is not collected by the app (i.e., the information retrieved will not be able to identify where you have been, such as your city or address).
- The Bluetooth exchange ID log data collected is stored locally in your phone in an encrypted form. This data will not be accessed by Alberta Health Services unless and until you choose to upload it as a result of being diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Mobile numbers or any other personal information are not revealed to other app. Only temporary IDs are exchanged between phones, and these IDs change regularly.
Once contact tracing for COVID-19 ceases, we will disable Alberta Contact Tracing’s functionality. Please see the privacy notice for more information.
Why are Bluetooth and Location Services required?
Enabling Bluetooth and Location Services is used solely to improve the app’s functionality by allowing the app to operate regardless of the device’s lock/unlock state or the app’s foreground/background status. Personal information, and location information or GPS coordinates are not used, captured, or stored.
Can the ABTraceTogether app track the location of all phones installed with AB TraceTogether?
The ABTraceTogether app does not collect or use physical location data (e.g., GPS, WiFi fingerprinting, or mobile device ID). The app instead relies on proximity data via Bluetooth and temporary IDs that change over time.
The app doesn't identify where COVID-19 exposure may have occurred. It only seeks to establish who else might have been exposed to the virus.
Contact tracers may directly ask you questions about your physical location (e.g., which stores or workplaces you visited) for activity mapping through verbal interviews, but this will never be captured within the ABTraceTogether app or provided to other app users with your personal information.
Can I say no to uploading my ABTraceTogether data when contacted by Alberta Health Services?
ABTraceTogether is based on voluntary, community-driven contact tracing. Users of the ABTraceTogether app who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are contacted by Alberta Health Services, can choose to submit their app data to more quickly help others in the community.
Does ABTraceTogether share information with MyHealth Records?
ABTraceTogether does not share any information with MyHealthRecords. MyHealthRecords does not share any information with ABTraceTogether other than the phone number you enter when going through MyHealthRecords to upload your ABTraceTogether contact data. This phone number is not saved on MyHealthRecords and cannot be accessed after you have completed the upload flow on ABTraceTogether.
What kind of application analytics data does the ABTraceTogether app collect?
The Government of Alberta, through Alberta Health, may use anonymized data collected through the use of the ABTraceTogether app to make sure it is functioning for users who have downloaded it, understand app adoption, support the consistent and effective use of the app, and to better inform contact tracers on thresholds and effective public health outreach activities.
Information provided may be used for health system management and planning, policy development and analysis of the public health emergency. Contact information will not be used for this purpose, only your random anonymized User ID and other de-identified data.
None of this data is identifiable to a specific person or location, and is always stored separately from any personal information used for contact tracing, such as your phone number. Analytics information used to inform Alberta Health on app effectiveness may include, for example: total number of users, distribution of user registrations over time, total number of contacts by user, average contacts per user, distribution of contacts across users, total unique contacts, total number of contacts that have been contacted by a health care worker, average duration of exposure with contacts, etc.
Analytics information collected to provide a better experience to app users may include: device information (brand, category, model, OS version) and app information (app store, app version, country, language, time since installation).
How can I stop sharing my data?
You can stop sharing your data by taking two steps:
1) Delete the app to stop tracing functionality
Deleting the app will result in logs no longer being collected by your device and all data associated with or generated by contact with your app will automatically be deleted from all mobile devices after 21 days.
2) Email [email protected] to remove your phone number
You can have your phone number removed from the registration system by emailing [email protected] with the mobile number you registered in the app. We will then delete your mobile number from our server. This renders meaningless all data that your phone has exchanged with other phones, because that data will no longer be associated with you. Please refer to the privacy notice for more details.
Who do I contact if I have a question about how my data is being handled?
If you have any questions about how your personal information is being used then please contact [email protected].
ABTraceTogether technical info
How can I report issues found with ABTraceTogether and contribute to its development?
Where can I learn more about the Herald Protocol?
The Herald Protocol is a VMware-founded open source project and part of on-going contributions towards the Linux Foundation Public Health initiative which aims to use open source technologies to help public health authorities across the world combat COVID-19 and future epidemics.
Where can I learn more about Linux Foundation Public Health?
Linux Foundation Public Health builds, secures, and sustains open source software to help public health authorities combat COVID-19 and future epidemics.
Are ABTraceTogether test results available publicly?
Are the ABTraceTogether code updates available to the public?
Yes. See the ABTraceTogether code.
If you need help setting up, please email ABTraceTogether app support.