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COVID-19 and your privacy: bringing your voices to decision-makers

Will our government promise to follow strict privacy principles if they move ahead with contact tracing? It may well be possible - but they still need to hear from you.

Will contact tracing be deployed in Canada? It’s the question currently topping headlines about Canada’s response to COVID-19. Trudeau has stated that “all options are on the table” and Alberta is making moves to roll out its’ own contact tracing app, but a key part of the conversation is missing: how the government plans to protect our privacy and our data.

That’s why OpenMedia, alongside B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA), International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) and Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), released a set of seven privacy principles that must be respected if the government does decide to move ahead with contact tracing, or other forms of data capture and emergency powers. As our accompanying blog explains, it is critical that any apps must be voluntary, and that non-surveillance based options, such as proper testing, and supporting people so that they can remain safe at home, must be prioritized. The principles also highlight the importance of transparency and oversight, and of limiting what data is gathered and how it’s shared.

People in Canada are very concerned about any measures respecting these principles; in just one week, over 10,000 members of the OpenMedia community have added their names to our petition for the government to adopt these principles in full.

We’re taking this message from our community straight to decision makers. And there’s already some promising action: On May 5, we met with the Minister of Justice to discuss if and how the government can adopt these principles. The message we heard gave us hope: that politicians are keen to get it right if this technology is brought in - and that our principles are reasonable and possible to follow. But we need to keep the pressure high: many more politicians across Canada still need to hear that this is what people in Canada are demanding. We’ll be continuing our work to follow these up with all the relevant federal ministers, and reach out further to Privacy Commissioners and provincial governments as well, until we can get a clear commitment. If you haven’t had a chance yet, please sign and share the petition to make sure your voice is heard.

For more on this issue, check out our previous blog on this topic.

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