Protecting Your Privacy
COVID Alert NY is a voluntary, anonymous, exposure-notification smartphone app designed to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
- The app identifies when people are close to another app-enabled smartphone using Bluetooth technology.
- The app alerts you if you were in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19.
- The app also alerts other app-enabled smartphones if you test positive for COVID-19 and were in close contact with those individuals, based upon your consent to share close contact codes.
- The app allows people to track symptoms and examine trends.
The use of this app is completely voluntary, and it can be downloaded for free on applicable iOS and Android enabled smartphones.
Privacy is protected by the app by keeping your data anonymous and not identifiable to any individual. The app is downloadable from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store which is linked to an individual’s mobile account. The NYSDOH cannot identify any individual that downloads the app onto their iOS or Android device, individuals are also protected by Apple and Google’s privacy policies.
Information processed in the App is collected in three different ways:
- Provided by you as the user (if you choose to provide it);
- Generated by services on the phone; and
- Automatically collected from your phone.
The COVID Alert NY app collects a combination of information provided by you, if you choose (the county you live in, your gender, your age-range, your race and ethnicity, and your symptoms), as well as information generated by using the app itself. This data is recorded anonymously and any of this data that is shared with the NYS Department of Health cannot be used to identify you or any other individual using the app.
If you have logging enabled, the Exposure Notification feature within your phone’s Operating System (OS) will collect the random codes of other smartphones that are within 6 feet of your phone for longer than 10 minutes. If you’re in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, the app will share the most recent date that you were in close contact with that person. Your phone automatically shares your phone’s IP address with the back-end server (an IP is a network address for your computer, so the Internet knows where to send you emails, data, etc.) for the purposes of logging exposures. The app will use the IP address in its communication with the server to request exposure information but does not collect or store your phone’s IP address itself. The server also does not store your IP address. This process ensures anonymity with all app users.
You can delete your personal information at any time. First, click the “App Settings” icon at the bottom of the screen. Select the menu option to “Delete my Data,” then click the red button that reads “Delete my Data.” When prompted, click “Confirm.” Once confirmed, your data is permanently deleted and cannot be recovered. However, using the “Delete my Data” option will still keep a log of exposures stored on your phone. To delete exposure data, you must turn off Exposure Notifications and delete this data through your actual iOS or Android settings.
You may also delete your COVID Alerts (if you received any) through the “My COVID Alerts” option within the app settings menu. If you received any alerts, click on “My COVID Alerts”, then select “Delete All” on the subsequent screen. If you do not have any COVID Alerts, you will not see this “Delete All” button.
A limited set of aggregate app health metrics data is also generated from using the app and shared with the NYSDOH to supplement the contact tracing process. Any aggregate contact tracing data shared with NYSDOH from the app cannot be used to identify any individual app user. A user can choose to opt-out of sharing certain app metrics data at any time through the app settings menu.
Additional metrics related to app adoption and usage are also collected including number of app downloads and deletions. The app developers or NYSDOH cannot identify any specific user that has downloaded or deleted the app. Any user that downloads the app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store is subject to Apple and Google’s overall app store privacy policies.
Specific to contact tracing, app metrics data includes:
- Number of app users who have Exposure Notification Services enabled – Tracks the daily size of the app enabled contact tracing network.
- Number of close contact notifications – Tracks the number of close contact notifications that are being generated for users that fit the close contact case definition.
- Number of app users who uploaded positive diagnosis keys for the purpose of triggering alerts.
- Number of matched diagnosis keys per positive exposure notification – Measures the number of exposure events per positive exposure notification.
How Data is Used
App metrics data is collected and stored securely and is only shared with the New York State Department of Health. An app user may opt to share their own app data or relevant information with a case investigator if they are confirmed positive for COVID-19, but the core app data is not shared or transferred to the State’s contact tracing system.
Exposure logging and notifications data that is used by the app is completely anonymous. You will not be able to identify anyone that potentially exposed you to COVID-19, and others will not be able to identify you if you potentially exposed them. Your information is completely private and confidential. The app does not collect your name or personal information.
The App and Location Tracking
The COVID Alert NY app does not use location services on your mobile device. The app cannot identify where an individual may have exposed you to COVID-19, and subsequently, the app cannot identify where you may have exposed others to COVID-19 if you were to test positive.
Your IP address is a unique set of numbers that identifies your phone or computer when you use the internet. IP addresses are used so you can send and receive information online.
We do not store your IP address at any time. We delete it from our server as soon as we receive any data that you share with us from the app.
App Feedback Data
An in-app function is available to submit technical feedback to our app developers. By using this option, it will initiate an e-mail using your selected e-mail service on your phone. By using this feature, your device will pre-populate a set of technical diagnostic data which includes:
- Your app version
- Your device model
- Your Operating System version
- If you have closeness sensing active
- If you allow app notifications
- If your device supports Exposure Notification Services (ENS)
- If your ENS is active
- Amount of closeness cases
You may choose to delete this diagnostic information before contacting app technical support using this feature. By including this in your e-mail, you agree to send this technical diagnostic information to help our technical support staff quickly identify the feedback or issue that you are submitting.
To use the app, you must confirm that you are at least 18 years of age or are older. If you are under 18 years of age, a parent or guardian must confirm that you can use the app by clicking “I Confirm” on the age consent landing page upon app download.
Apple App Store and Google Play Store Terms & Conditions
Resources & Partners
For further questions, please reach out to [email protected].
Organizations from around the world worked together to develop the COVID Alert NY App. They included partnerships around:
- Project governance and delivery
Project Governance and Delivery
- New York State Department of Health
- Columbia University
- Cornell Tech
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Private Automated Contact Tracing (MIT-PACT)
- Amazon Web Services
- Linux Foundation Public Health
- NearForm, Inc