Since this past Wednesday, Costa Rica joined the list of more than 60 countries that enabled the COVID-19 contact notification service created by Google and Apple. It was baptized, locally, as Digital Mask and can now be activated by users.
The app is available on mobile devices with Android operating system, version 6.0 onwards; or iOS, from version 12.5. In the case of Huawei, only phones that still have access to Google services can also use this function.
It allows that, automatically, the devices of two people who socialize two meters away, for a minimum of 10 minutes, share a code. In the event that one of the people receives a positive opinion, the system notifies their contact but maintains the anonymity of the infected person.
To do this, people interested in having this tool should only enter the configuration section of their device. In the case of the iOS operating system, the option “Exposure Notifications” appears in the main list.
For their part, devices that work with Android must access the Google section and the option appears there. By clicking on the option, the user chooses the region and there choose Costa Rica. The system then conducts a series of steps in which it offers more information about the application and upon completion the user can accept its activation.
How does it work?
If a person receives a positive diagnosis, an eight-digit code will arrive on the cell phone. This is valid for 24 hours to be entered into the platform. When the person does that, the system notifies all the contacts they have been close to in the past ten days.
Both Apple and Google reiterated that it does not collect personal information and keeps all data anonymous. The codes are transmitted via Bluetooth and their use is completely free and voluntary.
“In this way, the person positive for COVID-19, thanks to an alliance with Telefónica de Costa Rica, will receive a text message with a code so that, on a voluntary basis, they authorize Mascarilla Digital to notify people who may have had contact, as long as they both have this feature enabled.
“It is worth clarifying that the notification that the contacts receive is informative and does not generate any sanitary isolation order,” the Ministry of Health explained through a press release. In that sense, the companies recalled that it is advisable to have the Bluetooth function activated for more optimal results.
Modest but important
Recently, the New York Times reported that some health officials in the United States claim that the app has shown “modest but significant benefits.” For example, in the state of California, more than 65,000 people have used it to alert potential contacts. However, some factors still require more attention from technology companies, as well as health authorities.
On the one hand, the Bluetooth signal can fail in some environments, especially with the presence of metals in the infrastructure. On the other hand, cases have been reported in which the effectiveness can be affected by the slowness of a result or the control of how accurate the notifications are. In fact, measures to ensure user privacy appear to be one of the most robust features.
According to the specialized firm Sensor Tower, the application has been used by more than 90 million people.