On May 19, 2021, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada alongside provincial and territorial privacy commissioners and the ombuds of Manitoba and New Brunswick (the Commissioners) issued a joint statement on privacy considerations for COVID-19 vaccine passports (the Joint Statement). In the Joint Statement, the Commissioners recognized the substantial public benefit vaccine passports may offer, but stressed that privacy should be “front and centre” for governments and businesses considering vaccine passports as a tool to help Canadians return to normal life.
The use of vaccine passports involves the disclosure of personal health information about an individual’s vaccine or immunity status in exchange, potentially, for access to goods and services, such as attending restaurants or sporting events or airline travel. The Commissioners stated that passports “must be developed in compliance with applicable privacy laws. They should also incorporate privacy best practices in order to achieve the highest level of privacy protection commensurate with the sensitivity of personal health information that will be collected, used or disclosed”.
In the Joint Statement, the Commissioners outlined fundamental privacy principles that should be adhered to in the development of vaccine passports, noting that the necessity, effectiveness and proportionality of vaccine passports must be established for each specific context in which they will be used. Further, the Commissioners make it clear that vaccine passports should not be used for any other purposes other than COVID-19, and that any personal health information collected through vaccine passports should be destroyed and vaccine passports decommissioned when the pandemic is declared over by public health officials or when the passports are determined not to be a necessary, effective or proportionate response to address their public health purposes.
Summary By: Hashim Ghazi
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