NEWS RELEASE: Civil society groups’ joint statement – Too early to launch contact tracing apps

BC FIPA, CCLA, BCCLA, CIPPIC, ICLMG, and OpenMedia are calling for more research and analysis prior to the release of new federally approved contact tracing app

VANCOUVER, June 24, 2020 – On June 18, 2020 the federal government announced that a contact tracing app, “COVID Alert” will be available for Ontarians in July. The app will be in its testing phase, though the nature of testing remains unclear.

BC FIPA, in collaboration with CCLA, BCCLA, CIPPIC, ICLMG, and OpenMedia have written a joint letter to the Prime Minister and First Ministers regarding serious concerns with the application’s implementation and operation at a regional and national level.

The federal Privacy Commissioner’s office has not yet received the necessary information and access to the application in order to analyze and provide recommendations on it, nor has a Privacy Impact Assessment been completed or submitted to that office for review. It is highly concerning that a deployment date has been publicly announced before the federal Privacy Commissioner has been given the opportunity to comprehensively review the application and its privacy impacts.

We call on the federal government to provide the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and their provincial and territorial counterparts with the time necessary to fully analyze the application and release an assessment before the application is released to the public. In addition, prior to release, the privacy policy for the application must be clear, detailed, and understandable so users can provide informed and meaningful consent, as well as understand their privacy rights and protections. Lastly, all elements of the application’s source code must be released to the public so that the privacy and security of the initiative can be assessed.

In today’s digital age, if a contact tracing application is to earn the trust of Canadians, then privacy must be of paramount importance. We feel that the government’s current actions fall short. For this reason, we, the undersigned, are calling on the government to meet the following principles before the application is made publicly available. Details on our joint letter can be found here.

Jason Woywada, Executive Director
BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association
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