TRENTON, NJ - If you trust your government, you will love the new app just released by Governor Phil Murphy.

The governor announced the launch of COVID-19 exposure notification mobile apps that will "serve as crucial tools to supplement the effort to trace and contact individuals subject to a COVID exposure. The app, COVID Alert NJ notifies users of potential COVID-19 exposure while maintaining user privacy and security.

Some information that they collect, if you choose to share it, includes:

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  • COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath.
  • Gender Identity
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Race
  • Age-range
  • County

"With today’s launch, New Jersey and New York join Pennsylvania and Delaware in creating a regional COVID Alert app network that operates across state lines to stop the spread of COVID-19. Connecticut has also announced it will launch an app in the near future using the same technology." stated the release.

The free mobile apps–available to anyone 18 or older who lives, works, or attends college in New Jersey or New York — are available for download from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store.

“Over the course of our public health emergency, we’ve called for a shared sense of personal responsibility to support our contact tracing efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Murphy. “With the launch of COVID Alert NJ and our regional app network, New Jerseyans and residents in our neighboring states can support our fight against COVID-19 simply by downloading an application on their phone. The app is free and secure, and your identity, personally identifying information, and location will never be collected. The more phones that have the app, the better we can fight this pandemic.”

Contact tracers have had an extraordinarily difficult time getting answers from the folks they call. In today's privacy oriented environment, with massive data breaches from major corporations, the success of the app will be highly trust dependent, something that has not come natural to government and a fairly steep climb.

According to the release, the apps use Exposure Notification System technology developed by Google and Apple to strengthen New Jersey and New York’s contact tracing programs statewide. The COVID Alert apps will notify users if they have been in close contact – within six feet for at least 10 minutes – with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Knowing about a potential exposure can help individuals quickly make a plan to stay safe, including contacting their physician or the State Health Department hotlines to get more information about quarantining and testing to prevent community spread.

COVID Alert NJ and COVID Alert NY are completely anonymous and do not track or collect any location data or personal data from your phone. The COVID Alert apps do not use GPS location data. The Exposure Notification System uses Bluetooth Low Energy technology to detect when another phone with the same app is within six feet. Proximity is measured, but not geographic location. COVID Alert app users must explicitly choose to turn on exposure notifications – and can turn it off at any time.

After downloading the app, users must opt-in to receive “Exposure Notifications.” When the app senses a close contact, your phone will exchange a secure random code with the close contact’s phone. Of note, your location, name or personally identifiable data are never disclosed. If you test positive for COVID-19, a public health representative from the local health department will call as part of the states’ contact tracing programs and ask if you are willing to anonymously notify your “close contacts” by uploading your app’s anonymous close contact codes. Each day, the app will compare your list of close contact codes to the list of codes associated with positive COVID-19 app users. If there’s a match, you will get an Exposure Alert, along with appropriate next steps to stay safe and prevent community spread like self-quarantining and getting tested. COVID Alert apps never reveal the identity of the COVID-19 positive individual.

The COVID Alert NJ app will work in conjunction with similar apps in Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania, allowing New Jerseyans to continue to receive exposure notifications when exposed to residents of those states. If a New Jersey resident travels to one of those states and is exposed to someone with COVID-19 who has an equivalent app, the resident will receive a notification.

"Built with privacy at its core, the COVID Alert app puts power in people’s hands to fight against COVID-19. In using open source peer-reviewed technology, interoperable with Pennsylvania and Delaware, the States of New York and New Jersey will allow citizens to engage, protect each other and break transmission chains. This privacy preserving approach has already been successfully rolled out across borders in Ireland and parts of the UK,” said Cian O Maidin, CEO, NearForm. 

In other words, 'Trust Us.'

Time will tell as the applications are downloaded to your devices and the information begins to be shared.