ArriveCan app still frustrates users, experts after bug fixes

Calls to scrap the ArriveCan app continue from medical and technology experts as well as travelers, even after the federal government fixed a technical glitch that unnecessarily quarantined some users. was instructed to do.

While the glitch was fixed last Wednesday, social media platforms have been flooded with posts from travelers complaining that the app is not user-friendly overall.

The union representing border services agents estimates that about 30 percent of border crossers don’t complete it, prolonging passenger processing times during an already chaotic travel season.

“We’re so short-staffed and spending so much time working with this app that we don’t really have time to do our actual jobs,” Mark Weber, president of the Customs and Immigration Union, said in an interview.

According to Dr. Andrew Morris, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto, the app has also outlived its usefulness in protecting public health.

“I really have no idea why we would continue to use it as we are now. I think it’s a lot of hard work, work and an honest pain for a lot of people for very little benefit,” he said. said in an interview.

Morris also questioned the fact that entrants are certified as vaccinated “when we’re not really making sure that their vaccinations are up to date, when the federal requirement to be fully vaccinated The definition doesn’t include three vaccines or one vaccine, let’s say. Five or six months after your last dose.”

Launched in November 2020, the ArriveCan app aims to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by ensuring that arrivals are dually vaccinated with faster processing times at the border as a potential bonus. , to facilitate contact tracing.

It was initially mandatory only for air passengers entering Canada but became mandatory for all border crossers in February 2021. Canadian and international travelers must still submit proof of vaccinations, dates of travel and contact information within 72 hours of arrival.

The government announced last month that the app would be mandatory until at least September 30, and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendesino has hinted that it will end the pandemic as part of a modernization strategy. which seeks to reduce border barriers.

“ArriveCan is an important and essential tool that helps inform public health advice and is an integral part of Canada’s monitoring program for emerging species of concern that may pose a threat to the health and safety of Canadians,” Canada Border Services Agency spokeswoman Judith Gadbois-St. Cyr said in an email.

Meanwhile, random testing, which is indicated through the email address associated with the ArrivalCan user, resumed last Tuesday at the country’s four major airports, barely five weeks after it was halted on June 11.

Bianca Wylie, a technology expert and partner at Digital Public, argued that the lack of oversight and accountability affects an app that contains sensitive information, saying the ArriveCan platform should be voluntary.

“You’re telling people you have to use this app, when we know there are people who don’t feel comfortable using an app like this,” he said in an interview. Don’t need technology.”

“It’s closed code. We don’t know how it works. There’s no advisory board, no oversight … there’s no audit.”

Canada’s Quarantine Act allows for data collection but nowhere specifies the use of any particular technology, Wylie said.

The agency said the app was developed by the Canada Border Services Agency and five companies that did not have to participate in a competitive bidding process “to respond to the rapidly changing pandemic environment” under pre-existing contracts with the government. .

Gadbois-St-Cyr said, “All contractual rules were followed while developing and improving the application and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner is actively engaged in any personal information collected by ArriveCan. “

The Border Services Agency has said it spent $24.7 million to develop and maintain the arrival can, on top of $2.2 million for advertising.

This is too much for some people. Maria Rakina, a Vancouver-area resident who returned from an overseas trip last week, said she received “random emails asking how my quarantine is going – can’t believe they’re on the system.” 26 million dollars spent.”

After a June 28 update, travelers arriving at Pearson and Vancouver airports can now complete their customs declaration forms before landing in Canada — Montreal will accommodate the same starting Thursday, followed by this fall and There will be other airports in the winter — part of Mendesino’s plan. “Modernize our border” and reduce border queues.

The government says hundreds of automated kiosks in customs areas at major airports shave 40 seconds from a two-minute interaction by passengers using the app.

More than 99 percent of international air travelers and 90 percent of land crossers successfully used ArriveCan in the week ending last Sunday, the federal agency said.

“These are completion rates when we’ve helped the traveler complete it — or completed it for the traveler,” says Mark Weber, who heads the union representing border services agents.

As for the now-repaired glitch, Public Safety Department spokesman Alexander Cohen said about three percent of those arriving from overseas were affected, including a total of 1.3 million weekly by air and land.

– Christopher Reynolds, Canadian Press