On July 31, 2020, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (collectively, the commissioners) issued a news release supporting use of the COVID-19 tracing application developed by the Canadian federal government, COVID Alert, after completing their review of the application and undergoing in-depth discussions with the federal and Ontario governments. On the same date, the commissioners also released a privacy review of the COVID Alert application, highlighting key points of consideration the government should keep in mind from a privacy perspective.
The commissioners support the use of the COVID Alert application provided that the use of the application is voluntary, has been developed with robust safeguards to protect the identity of users, and that users are not required to use or disclose their use of the application. Further, the commissioners recognize that the governments of Canada and Ontario have sufficiently demonstrated that COVID Alert will likely be effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19, but given the uncertainty, the commissioners recommend that implementation of the application be closely monitored and the app be decommissioned in the event that new evidence indicates that it is not, or is no longer, effective in achieving its intended purpose.
The news release states that both governments must monitor COVID Alert’s implementation and effectiveness and that independent oversight will be important to foster public trust. That said, having reviewed the documentation provided by the Government of Canada to date, the commissioners are “satisfied that the design of the COVID Alert exposure notification app meets all the privacy principles outlined in the joint [federal, provincial and territorial] statement”.
Summary By: Hashim Ghazi
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