By Covid Watch on July 21, 2020

Testing Begins on Covid Watch: First Fully Anonymous Exposure Notification App in the U.S.

Arizona makes privacy a priority by being the first state to sign off on a pilot testing program between the University of Arizona and Covid Watch, the first app in the U.S. built on the Google Apple Exposure Notification API.


Against the backdrop of rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations nationwide, the start of the school year is quickly approaching — and universities are faced with the high-stakes decision of if and how they are going to bring students back to campus.

Many are looking to technology solutions that can help stop the spread of coronavirus and empower communities to return safely to their daily lives. Covid Watch has built one such tool — a fully anonymous exposure notification app that notifies community members of potential COVID-19 exposure while protecting their privacy.

Last month, Arizona became the first state to begin testing the Covid Watch app through a pilot at the University of Arizona. Home to roughly 60,000 students, faculty, and staff, the Tucson-based university, like nearly every other in the country, has been working continuously on the Herculean task of planning a safe reentry strategy for its bustling campus.


“Our faculty and other researchers continue to step up and find new solutions to this complicated health care issue,” said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins in a report from the university. “Each solution provides another piece of our reentry strategy, and I am proud our faculty are the first to test this app.”

After Arizona Governor Doug Ducey granted approval for the pilot, the University of Arizona Campus Reentry Task Force then seamlessly integrated testing of the Covid Watch app, in addition to traditional manual contact tracing and self-reporting, as part of the university’s three-tiered “Test, Trace and Treat” program. This multi-layered plan to slow the spread of COVID-19 in their community will also include diagnostic testing, antibody testing, and treatment of those who may have been infected, or have tested positive, for COVID-19.
Covid Watch and the State of Arizona were a natural fit for the first pilot testing partnership; together, they are leading the privacy-first approach in their mutual commitment to never collect personally identifying information. Other states have developed apps based on digital contact tracing that collect personal data, such as contact information or GPS location, like Utah’s Healthy Together and North Dakota’s Care19. Such apps are either for-profit or have been caught mishandling user data and have been called out by privacy groups like the ACLU and EFF, suffering low adoption rates as a result.
Covid Watch can’t mishandle your data because it doesn’t collect any, and as far as privacy goes–it’s inherent to the design–and its mission is shared with the ACLU and EFF. The Covid Watch app is a non-profit, novel technology that builds a fully anonymous app on top of the Google/Apple Exposure Notification (GAEN) APIs. The app provides exposure notification alerts to persons who may have been exposed to COVID-19 by using Bluetooth technology to share signals between app users who have come in contact with one another. Think of it as a handshake of sorts — a quick hello, just between phones.
Published by Covid Watch July 21, 2020