Shopify Volunteers Release Open-Sourced Contact-Tracing App

The app uses Bluetooth technology to trace possible exposure to COVID-19 and was endorsed by Shopify's CEO.

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Need to Know 

  • A group of volunteers from Shopify has released COVID Shield, a contact-tracing app to help combat COVID-19.
  • The app uses Bluetooth technology to trace and notify possible exposure to the coronavirus.
  • COVID Shield is free and open-sourced, meaning developers from any company or government can use and modify it for local requirements.
  • While the app is not an official Shopify release, the tech giant’s CEO Tobi Lutke has endorsed the app and encouraged users to download it.

Analysis 

A group of volunteers from Shopify have released a new app, designed to aid in tracking exposure to COVID-19. 

COVID Shield is described as “a private, secure, and easy-to-use tool to help governments launch their own exposure notification systems.”  The app is also open-sourced, meaning the software is developed collaboratively for public use. 

A look at COVID Shield.

The group of Shopify volunteers say “they want to help slow the spread of COVID-19, so they are releasing COVID Shield free of charge with a flexible open-source license.”

The new app’s software is based on the new Bluetooth technology provided by Apple and Google

COVID Shield is made up of three parts: an app, a server, and a web-based results portal. The results portal is designed to provide healthcare professionals with unique temporary codes that can be shared with users who have tested positive for COVID-19. The code gives users access to upload their random IDs via the mobile app if they choose. 

The mobile app runs in the background, using Bluetooth to collect and share random IDs with nearby phones with COVID Shield installed. If a user tests positive for COVID-19, they can choose to share their data and notify others of possible exposure. 

The group claims that no personal information is collected and the sharing of IDs is voluntary.

The developers behind the app are simply volunteers and this app is not a release from Shopify itself. 

That said, Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke has endorsed the app via Twitter, writing, “I know that a lot of countries and regions have bet on the wrong technology approach to build contact tracing. We build [COVID Shield] so that everyone who needs to pivot can do so quickly and not start from zero.”

“[COVID Shield] is a carefully build (sic) end-to-end reference GAEN implementation,” Lutke tweeted. “It can be deployed in any country, translated, and modified to local requirements. It’s audited and open source. No more ‘we don’t have the local capabilities to develop this’ arguments.” 

The Ottawa-based volunteers also say the server is flexible enough to be used at different levels of government, which might be a nod to the Canadian government’s search for a contact-tracing app to endorse for national use. 

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