Olympia, WA — Gov. Jay Inslee, along with the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), on Monday announced the launch of WA Notify, an easy-to-use anonymous exposure notification tool that’s been created stop the spread of COVID-19.
Inslee said by “adding WA Notify to their smartphones, Washington residents will be alerted if they spent time near another WA Notify user who later tests positive for COVID-19.”
The app uses technology developed by Google and Apple and works without collecting or revealing any location or personal data, Inslee’s office said.
“Secure, private and anonymous exposure notification technology is an important tool for Washington,” Inslee said Monday. “We’ve deployed WA Notify in 29 languages so as many Washington residents as possible can protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities. I encourage everyone to start using WA Notify today so we can continue to work together to contain this virus.”
Data models for three counties in Washington found that COVID-19 infections and deaths could be reduced if even a small percentage of people enabled WA Notify.
Inslee was joined by outgoing Secretary of Health John Wiesman, who emphasized this tool will stop the virus from spreading. Studies from Oxford University and Stanford also show that the more people who use exposure notification technology, the more effective it is.
“WA Notify complements the actions Washington residents are already taking, like wearing masks, physical distancing and keeping gatherings small,” said Wiesman. “We’re excited to be joining the states already using this safe and secure technology and encourage all Washingtonians to join the effort.”
Several states including Virginia, New York and Colorado are already using this tool. Countries successfully using this technology include Ireland, Canada and Germany.
The voluntarily activated app uses Bluetooth technology to exchange random codes with the phones of other users they are near. And, according to Inslee, it does this without revealing a user’s identity or location. Users who test positive for COVID-19 can enter a verification code provided by public health into WA Notify, so that other users who have been near them within the last 14 days can be anonymously alerted and take appropriate action.
The WA Notify tool is free and can be enabled in iPhone settings or downloaded as an app from the Google Play Store for Android phones. Users can opt out at any time.
“People are understandably concerned these days about being tracked and having their personal information compromised,” said Associate Professor Stefano Tessaro with the UW Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. “However, the technology behind WA Notify has been vetted by security and privacy experts across the world, and it does not collect or store any information that personally identifies its users.”
Before launching the tool, Washington state received a recommendation to adopt the technology from an oversight committee which included security and civil liberties experts and a diverse group of community leaders.
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