It can’t even go away properly.

Back in June of 2020 the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare released the COVID-19 Contact-Confirming Application or “COCOA” for short. It was quickly discovered that an actual cup of cocoa would be more effective at curbing the disease than this app, with only 0.03 percent of infections having been confirmed on it in its first month.

Things just got worse from there, with the discovery that for a few million users COCOA wasn’t even functioning for about four months during a wave of infections. Even at that time, the number of infections recorded on the app was about 2.7 percent.

▼ Wow, 869 days and not a peep from this thing.

Needless to say, when the ministry announced last September that they’d be pulling the plug on COCOA, it probably wasn’t a hard decision to make. And upon learning the news, many COCOA users might have went ahead and just deleted the app. However, those people would apparently be making a mistake.

Lest we forget, COCOA doesn’t really do anything right and that also includes uninstalling. The app was designed to run periodically in the background of your smartphone to scan for contact information, consuming a little memory and battery power in the process. But if you just uninstall COCOA like you would any other app, that routine background activity will still be carried out by your phone and still consume a little memory and battery power in the process.

According to the ministry, what you need to do instead is wait until the “Disable Version 3.0” COCOA update is available for your phone sometime after its rollout begins 17 November. This will be equipped with the tools to uninstall cleanly…we hope. This seems like a pretty important thing that the ministry would make sure the some 40 million users were well aware of, but instead it’s mostly been savvy users spreading the word through social media.

▼ This Twitter user’s been doing a great job and got 78,000 likes so far.

There is an explanation of this situation if you access the app and then go to the amended part of their frequently asked questions section. 

▼ Here’s the table of contents for that one section. It’s a little involved.

After wading through all this info it explains how the background checking for contact reports will continue even if the app is uninstalled and the best thing to do is wait until Disable Version 3.0 is made available to your phone. In the very likely event you already uninstalled COCOA, there is still a way to disable this background activity, according to the app’s FAQ.

For iPhones, go into Settings and then “Exposure Notifications” — it’s the one with the little icon which looks like a sun. I’m not too proud to admit that all this time I actually thought that setting had something to do with exposure to the sun.

From there, scroll all the way to the bottom for the button that reads “Turn Off Exposure Notifications” and that should do the trick. Android phones have a similar option in their settings menus as well. It’s quite simple and makes one wonder why a whole update is needed.

Honestly, everything about this is so weird I’m not sure whether the manual solution or waiting until the update arrives is a better course of action. The ministry appears to be advising to wait for the update though. In addition, they don’t say how long this update will be made available but are recommending users do it before the end of this year.

One might define a computer virus as an app that doesn’t do what it claims and instead diverts system resources away from the user. And in that way, the delicious irony of a virus-tracking app acting almost exactly like a computer virus was not lost on those making comments online.

“They gave us a smartphone virus to try and stop us from getting a real virus.”
“This seems a lot more complicated than it should be.”
“So, is our tax money used to make this update too?”
“We all would have been better off if COCOA never existed.”
“I hope they at least learned some lessons from all this.”
“Whoever made this thing, is this their first time?”
“We paid millions of yen in taxes for malware.”
“I’m glad I never downloaded it.”

On the bright side, it does seem that the amount of computing and battery power used by COCOA is relatively low. Still, it will be interesting to see what effect it has on my phone when the update comes. Then, I can finally be rid of this thing and go back to my tried and true methods for avoiding COVID-19: regular handwashing and shunning humanity.

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