MassNotify, the US state of Massachusetts’ exposure notifications app for Covid-19, was automatically installed on some Android phones without warning, according to many users.
According to 9To5Google, the company confirmed the new app’s “automatically distributed” nature, but states that “Covid-19 Exposure Notifications are enabled only if a user proactively turns it on”.
“We have been working with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to allow users to activate the Exposure Notifications System directly from their Android phone settings. This functionality is built into the device settings and is automatically distributed by the Google Play Store, so users don’t have to download a separate app,” the company told the website.
“Covid-19 Exposure Notifications are enabled only if a user proactively turns it on. Users decide whether to enable this functionality and whether to share information through the system to help warn others of possible exposure,” it added.
With the Massachusetts MassNotify app launch, the Exposure Notifications Express system was updated to leverage this automatic distribution so users can more quickly enable/disable alerts.
The Express approach previously leveraged a more traditional app rather than this new integrated service one.
The state of Massachusetts launched the MassNotify app on June 15.
It is slightly different from the first round of Exposure Notification applications where the state (either directly or via an authorized contractor) built and released a traditional app to the Play Store.
Rather, Massachusetts is using the “Exposure Notifications Express” system that Google and Apple announced last September.
This approach sees health agencies submit a configuration file to the two companies with information on how/when notifications should be triggered and the next steps after getting an alert.