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Learn more about MassNotify

Answers to frequently asked questions about MassNotify, a new service developed with Google and Apple’s automated exposure notification technology to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

MassNotify works through smartphones, with a focus on privacy, to alert users who may have been exposed to COVID-19.

The following questions and answers explain MassNotify in more detail.

Table of Contents

How MassNotify works for positive test cases and close contacts

How does MassNotify work?

By enabling MassNotify on your smartphone, you have the power to help your friends, family and community fight the spread of COVID-19.

When two people using MassNotify are near each other, their phones exchange random codes using Bluetooth. These random codes are completely anonymous, with no location tracking or exchange of personal information. When a person in Massachusetts tests positive for COVID-19 they will receive a text message (if they provided a cell phone number at the time of their test) with instructions on how to anonymously share their test result with other users through MassNotify. MassNotify users who were near the person who tested positive may receive an anonymous alert on their phone about their possible exposure to COVID-19. The alert will have a link to information about what to do next to protect themselves and others.

 

I got a text from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Why?

The Department of Public Health texts everyone who recently tested positive for COVID-19 so that MassNotify users can quickly and anonymously alert other users of their possible exposure.  By following the link in the text, people who tested positive can quickly and anonymously share their test result with other users through MassNotify. MassNotify users who were near the person who tested positive may receive an anonymous alert about their possible exposure to COVID-19. If you receive a text from the Department of Public Health but are not a MassNotify user, you do not need to use your verification link. But if you wish, you can click that verification link to help you enable MassNotify on your phone for future use.

What happens if MassNotify tells me I may have been exposed?

If you receive an exposure notification from MassNotify, you could develop COVID-19 up to 14 days after your exposure. Information on what you should do to prevent further COVID-19 spread is outlined here by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. If MassNotify detects that you may have been exposed, you will be directed to a website and a phone line where you can get information about how and where to get tested, instructions on how to keep yourself and those close to you safe, and resources to answer your questions. It’s important to read and follow the directions on the website carefully. If you have questions that are not answered by the website, you can email massnotifyhelp@mass.gov.

What does it look like to get an exposure notification from MassNotify?

MassNotify exposure notifications are sent to users who spent time in close contact with another MassNotify user who later tested positive and shared their diagnosis in MassNotify. The notifications are shown privately on your phone, and they look like other notifications you are likely familiar with (like social media or email notifications). If you receive and open an exposure notification from MassNotify, it will explain why you received the alert, provide guidance on what to do next, and direct you to additional resources and information.

MassNotify displays the date that you were exposed within the Exposure Notification section in your phone settings, but it will not tell you who exposed you, where you were exposed, or at what time you were exposed.

I received an exposure notification through MassNotify, but I’ve already been vaccinated against COVID-19. What do I do?

If you are fully vaccinated (you have received both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson /Janssen vaccine, more than 2 weeks ago) and you receive an exposure notification from MassNotify, you do not need to get tested unless you have symptoms of COVID-19. Since it is still possible to get COVID-19 after you have been vaccinated, if you develop symptoms at any point in the 14 days after your exposure, please get tested and stay home so you don’t spread disease to other people.

Is it possible to receive multiple alerts from MassNotify?

Yes, MassNotify users who may have been exposed multiple times will be notified of every new exposure that is shared with MassNotify.

How do I tell MassNotify if I test positive for COVID?

If you test positive, you will receive a text message from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (if you provided a cellphone number in your contact information at the time of your test). The text will include a unique link you can use to anonymously share your result in MassNotify. If you choose to share your result, other MassNotify users you have been near recently will be alerted that they may have been exposed to COVID-19. These alerts will not include any information about you. The more people who share their codes, the better we will be able to stop the spread of COVID-19.

My verification link expired or I never got a text message from DPH. How do I get a new code?

Verification links expire after 24 hours. If the link you received has expired, or you never received a verification link in a text message after a recent COVID test, you can request a new link by emailing the MassNotify help desk at massnotifyhelp@mass.gov

How does MassNotify help Massachusetts?

MassNotify is another tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and help keep Massachusetts safe. Studies in other states and countries have found that the more people who use exposure notification, the greater the benefit. Data indicate that even a small number of people using exposure notification solutions like MassNotify can help reduce COVID-19 infections and deaths. A study in the UK found that this technology helped to avoid hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 infections and saved thousands of lives over a three-month period. To date, more than 60 similar exposure notification programs have been launched around the world.

I have already been vaccinated against COVID-19. Should I still use MassNotify?

Yes. We encourage everyone to use MassNotify, even after vaccination. Vaccines are the best way to stay safe from COVID-19. But even if you are vaccinated, it’s important to know if you have been exposed to COVID-19 in case you get sick. If you do get COVID-19 and are using MassNotify, you will be able to alert others that they could have been exposed. This helps protect all of us.

How MassNotify protects you and your information

How does MassNotify protect my privacy?

MassNotify is based on Google Apple Exposure Notifications technology, which was designed to safeguard user privacy. The system never shares any location data or personal information with Google, Apple, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, or other users. In addition, participation is entirely voluntary — users can opt in or out at any time.

When two people using MassNotify on their smartphones are near each other, their phones exchange random codes using Bluetooth. These random codes are completely anonymous, with no location tracking or exchange of personal information. The codes change every 15 minutes to protect you. Codes exchanged with other phones are stored securely on your phone by the operating system in a way that no other software application can access them, and they never leave the phone without your permission.

I got a notification about contributing my MassNotify data to public health. Why?

The Department of Public Health (DPH) wants to know how well MassNotify is working so we can improve the tool. You can choose not to contribute MassNotify data to DPH's effort to learn more about the spread of COVID-19, but if you agree to contribute data for this purpose, your privacy is fully protected. The information is combined with information from other MassNotify users, and your data cannot be seen individually, only in combination with everyone else’s data. No personal information is collected or shared when you agree to contribute data to DPH's efforts and there is no way to identify you. The Department of Public Health cannot access information about individuals who use MassNotify; they can only access combined data that people have agreed to share.

If I agree to contribute my MassNotify data with DPH, what information is collected?

If you enable MassNotify on your phone and agree to contribute data to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's (DPH) efforts to learn more about the spread of COVID-19, your privacy is fully protected. No personal information is collected or shared when you contribute your data, so there is no way to identify you. DPH will only see combined state-level data, which will include:

  • The number of people who agree to share their data from MassNotify. This helps us know how large our sample is.
  • The number of exposure notifications received by MassNotify users. This helps us see trends in the spread of COVID-19.
  • The number of people who click on an exposure notification. This helps us understand whether people are reviewing public health recommendations.
  • The number of people who were near someone who tested positive for COVID-19, but not close enough or for long enough to be notified of an exposure. This helps us consider whether we need to adjust how MassNotify measures an exposure.

Will people know if I test positive for COVID-19?

MassNotify does not share any identifiable information about you with any MassNotify users. When someone receives a notification about possible exposure, they will only know that someone they were near recently has tested positive for COVID-19, and the date they were exposed. They won’t know who the person was, the exact time of exposure, or where the exposure occurred.

Will people know that I received an exposure notification?

If you receive an exposure notification from MassNotify, MassNotify will not notify anyone else that you were exposed to COVID-19. No one — not even the Massachusetts Department of Public Health — will know that you received an exposure notification. If you choose to call the MassNotify team (via the phone number provided in your exposure notification), you will have the option to give the MassNotify team your personal information so they can provide additional support and help you determine the best course of action, like when to get tested. Unless you choose to tell someone or let someone else look on your phone, no one else will ever know that you received an exposure notification.

Will contact tracers know that I have been exposed to COVID-19?

MassNotify will not tell the MA contact tracing team that you have been exposed to COVID-19. You can voluntarily choose to tell the contact tracers that you were exposed by calling the phone number listed in the exposure notification message. They will provide guidance and resources to help you stay safe.

How does MassNotify prevent false test reports?

MassNotify requires users to confirm that they had a positive test using a verification link provided by MassNotify. These links are only sent to individuals with a positive test result for COVID-19 that has been reported to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. When COVID positive people choose to upload their verification code using the link provided in a text message, MassNotify checks that the uploaded code is linked to a positive COVID test before it sends exposure alerts to prevent false reports.

How MassNotify works on your iPhone or Android device

Do I have to opt-in to use MassNotify?

To benefit from exposure notification alerts in Massachusetts, you have to opt-in to MassNotify on your smartphone. MassNotify is free and voluntary. You can opt-out at any time by simply turning the feature off in your phone’s settings. If you opt-out of MassNotify, all random codes the phone has stored from other nearby users will be deleted and cannot be recovered.

How do I opt out of MassNotify on my smartphone?

MassNotify is a voluntary service and users can opt in or out at any time. MassNotify is not automatically turned on and will not be enabled unless you explicitly choose to opt in. You can decide whether to turn on this functionality in your phone's settings and whether to share information through the system to help warn others of possible exposure. If you decide to enable MassNotify, your data will be protected in accordance with the MassNotify privacy policy.

If you previously enabled MassNotify on your Android or iOS phone, you can disable it at any time in your phone’s settings. For iPhone users, go to Settings, then Exposure Notifications, then click “Turn off Exposure Notifications”. For Android users, go to Settings, then Google, then Exposure Notifications and toggle off “Use Exposure Notifications”.

If you have an Android phone and wish to uninstall the new Exposure Notification functionality distributed to your phone by the Google Play Store, you can do so at any time by taking the following steps:

  1. Open the Google Play Store
  2. Tap the profile picture at the top right
  3. Select Manage apps & devices and open the Manage tab
  4. Tap on “Exposure Notifications Settings Feature – MA” and click Uninstall

Is MassNotify a contact tracing app?

No, MassNotify is not a contact tracing app. Contact tracing collects information on people that a COVID-19 positive person has been in contact with to help the Department of Public Health understand how and where COVID-19 is spreading and to stop the spread. MassNotify does not track or trace information about the people you are in contact with, so it doesn’t do “contact tracing.” Running the service on your phone will not cause your phone to collect or exchange any personal information, so it isn’t possible for anyone to know who you have been in contact with. MassNotify adds to the contact tracing process by sending exposure notifications to people who would not be found through contact tracing either because the person with COVID-19 doesn’t know them or doesn’t realize they might have been exposed. MassNotify can alert those people allowing them to stay safe, get tested, and help stop the spread of COVID-19.

All residents, including MassNotify users, who test positive for COVID-19 will be contacted by their local health department or the CTC for contact tracing; contacts who receive an exposure alert may also receive a call from their local health department or the CTC for contact tracing, if their name is provided by a positive case as a close contact.

Do I have to pay for MassNotify?

No. MassNotify is free.

How will I know I’ve set up MassNotify correctly?

For iPhone users, go to your Settings, then click “Exposure Notifications.” You should see “Active” accompanied by a green check.

For Android users, go to your Settings, then click “Google,” then click “COVID-19 Exposure Notifications.” The “Use Exposure Notifications” toggle at the top of the page should be toggled on. The space right beneath the toggle will indicate that exposure notifications sent from Massachusetts Department of Public Health are currently active.

Does MassNotify work if I travel out of state?

MassNotify is compatible with exposure notification services in other US states and will send you exposure notifications while you are in another state without issue. However, if you get tested while in another state and receive a positive result, there may be a delay before you receive a verification link to share that result in MassNotify. If you are tested in another state and receive a positive result, you may be able to share your result more quickly by using that state’s exposure notification tool, if one is available. Please refer to the instructions for use of that state’s exposure notification tool.

Is MassNotify just for people who live in Massachusetts?

Anyone is welcome to use MassNotify. If you live in a nearby state, work in Massachusetts, or are visiting Massachusetts for an extended period of time, it may make sense for you to enable MassNotify on your phone. No matter where you live, MassNotify can send you an exposure notification if you have been in close contact with someone who later shares a positive test result. However, if you don’t have a home address in Massachusetts, you will not be able to share your own positive test result in MassNotify if you test positive. To receive a MassNotify verification link — which you will need in order to share a positive test result — you need to have tested positive for COVID-19 and the home address you provided for your test needs to be in Massachusetts.

If you wish to share a positive test result in MassNotify but you live in another state that has its own exposure notification service, you may be able to use your home state’s service to share your positive test result; if you do, that will ensure anonymous exposure notifications are sent to any of your close contacts who are using MassNotify.

Will using MassNotify drain my battery or use a lot of data?

MassNotify is designed to have minimal effect on your data and battery life by using Bluetooth Low Energy technology.

Do I need to keep Bluetooth turned on for MassNotify to work?

Yes. MassNotify uses Bluetooth Low Energy, so Bluetooth must always be active for the system to detect other users nearby.

Do I need to have MassNotify open on my phone for it to work?

No. MassNotify will work in the background.

Is MassNotify supported on older smartphones?

iPhone users can use MassNotify if your operating system is:

  • iOS version 13.7 or later (for iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, SE or newer)
  • iOS version 12.5 (for iPhone 6, 6 plus, 5s)

Android users can use MassNotify if your Android smartphone supports Bluetooth Low Energy and Android Version 6 (API 23) or above.

Do I have to be 18 to use MassNotify?

MassNotify is not intended for children under the age of 13. Children between the ages of 13 and 17 may use MassNotify with consent from a parent or legal guardian.

There is no MassNotify-specific parental approval system for this age group. However, parents can control access to MassNotify by using the tools readily available to parents to manage their children's access to device settings, apps, and purchases. For example, 13-year-olds using Android phones must have an account set up for them by a parent who has provided verifiable parental consent. Additionally, the parent can use Screentime settings to manage devices that the child signs into with their account.

Will this technology work if I share a phone with someone?

MassNotify can’t tell who was using a phone at the time of a potential exposure. If you share a phone, everyone who uses the phone needs to follow public health instructions if MassNotify indicates a possible exposure to COVID-19.

Does MassNotify work on devices like iPads or smart watches?

No. The Exposure Notification framework was designed specifically for smartphones and is not optimized on iPads, tablets or watches.

I’m having technical trouble with MassNotify on my phone. Where do I go for help?

If you’re having technical trouble with MassNotify, you can email our help desk at massnotifyhelp@mass.gov.

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