On August 27, 2020, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (Commissioner) shared with members of two parliamentary committees his response to an information request on the privacy implications of the federal government’s COVID-19 exposure notification application, COVID Alert.

In July 2020, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (the Office) and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario announced their support for the use of COVID Alert after undertaking a review of the mobile application, as previously reported by the E-TIPS® Newsletter here.

In his response, the Commissioner noted that the Office’s review of COVID Alert “highlighted serious weaknesses with our current federal privacy legislation.” The Commissioner stated that while the federal government agreed to be subject to independent review, it was not legally bound to make these commitments. The Commissioner asked for a modernization of Canada’s privacy laws to ensure that new technologies are appropriately regulated and the privacy of Canadians is protected.

The Commissioner’s response provided some examples for updating Canada’s privacy laws, including:

  • the addition of rights-based privacy laws;
  • a requirement for organizations to consult the Office and conduct Privacy Impact Assessments for new applications that pose risks to privacy; and
  • granting the Office independent oversight whenever privacy interests are at issue.

The Commissioner’s letter was also accompanied by a chart, which summarized international developments in privacy protection and highlighted how Canada’s privacy legislation currently lags behind protections in other countries.

Summary By: Imtiaz Karamat


20 09 09

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