Do not uninstall this Covid tracker yet, warns the Japanese government


It can’t even disappear properly.

In June 2020, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Welfare issued COVID-19 Contact-Confirming Application or “COCOA” for short. It was quickly discovered that a real cup of cocoa would be more effective against disease than this application with only 0.03 percent of infections was confirmed in the first month.

The situation just got worse from then on, with the discovery that for several million users COCOA wasn’t even working for about four months during a wave of infection. Even at that time, the number of infections registered in the app was around 2.7 percent.

Wow, 869 days and not a word of it.

Needless to say, when the ministry announced in September last year that they would pull the COCOA plug, it probably wasn’t a difficult decision. After hearing the news, many COCOA users may have simply removed the app. However, these people would clearly be making a mistake.

Let’s not forget that COCOA doesn’t really do anything right, and that includes uninstalling as well. The app is designed to run periodically in the background of your smartphone to scan for contact information while consuming some memory and battery. But if you just uninstall COCOA like any other app, this routine background activity will still be done by your phone and will still use some memory and energy in the process.

Instead, according to the ministry, you have to wait until the COCOA update “Disable version 3.0” is available for your phone after its rollout began on November 17th. It will come with an easy uninstall tool… we hope. This seems like a fairly important thing that the ministry would make sure about 40 million users are well aware of, but instead they are mostly experienced users spreading information via social media.

This Twitter user is doing a great job and has earned 78,000 likes so far.

There is an explanation for this if you access the app and then navigate to the revised part of the FAQ section.

Here is the table of contents for that one section. It’s a bit complicated.

After reviewing all this information, it explains how the background checking of contact reports will continue even if the app is uninstalled, and the best thing to do is wait until Disable version 3.0 becomes available on your phone. In the very likely case that you have already uninstalled COCOA, there is still a way to disable this background activity according to the app’s FAQ.

For iPhones, go to Settings and then “Exposure Notifications” – this is the one with the little icon that looks like the sun. I’m not too proud to admit that all this time I thought the sunsets had something to do with sun exposure.

From there, scroll all the way to the bottom to reveal the “Disable Exposure Notifications” button, and that should do the trick. Android phones have a similar option in the settings menu. It is quite simple and makes you wonder why the whole update is needed.

Honestly, everything about it is so strange that I’m not sure if the better solution is a manual solution or waiting for an update. However, the ministry seems advised to wait for the update. Additionally, they don’t say how long this update will be available for, but recommend users to do so before the end of this year.

You can define a computer virus as an application that does not do what it says and instead diverts system resources away from the user. And thus the wonderful irony of a virus-tracking application that works almost exactly like a computer virus did not escape the attention of those who comment on the Internet.

“They gave us a smartphone virus to stop us from contracting a real virus.”
“It feels a lot more complicated than it should be.”
“So, is our tax money also used for this update?”
“Everyone would be better off if cocoa had never existed.”
“Hope they at least learned from it all.”
“Whoever did this, is it their first time?”
“We paid millions of yen in taxes for the malware.”
“I’m glad I never downloaded it.”

On the other hand, the amount of computing power and battery used by COCOA seems to be relatively small. Still, it will be interesting to see what effect this has on my phone when the update comes in. Then I can finally get over it and go back to my tried and true COVID-19 avoidance methods: regular hand washing and avoiding humanity.

Source: Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Welfare, Hachima Kako
Photos © SoraNews24
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