Canada Privacy

Poll: Just 29% of people in Canada very likely to download a contact tracing app

Concern over privacy protections is top public concern

July 24, 2020 — According to an Innovative Research Group poll released today, just 29% of people in Canada would definitely or very likely download the Federal Government’s Covid Alert contact tracing app. 

The most commonly given reason for lack of confidence was concern over privacy protections (41%), followed by not owning a smartphone (16%) and questions over effectiveness (14%). 

The launch of the government’s Covid Alert app was initially scheduled for July 1st, starting in Ontario However, this has since been delayed, and no new launch date has been scheduled. A beta version recently became available for testing.

“Privacy is more important than ever to people in Canada in the digital age, and what we’re seeing in this poll is the clear results of the government’s failure over the past few years to effectively safeguard our privacy in law, or provide meaningful penalties when it is violated,” said OpenMedia Campaigns Director Matt Hatfield. “Our privacy laws are near toothless, and have not been meaningfully updated in decades - and they fail to address modern privacy issues like biometric surveillance. If the government wants to make app contact tracing a success, they are going to need to demonstrate to people in Canada that privacy and data protection will be taken more seriously- which would start by committing to significantly updating our privacy laws.”

“COVID Alert isn’t Canada’s first exposure notification or contact tracing app,” continued Hatfield. “In Alberta, we saw what happens when a government rushes to put out an app. An incredibly low number of people are using that app, and many privacy and security vulnerabilities were observed by Alberta’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. We’ve also recently learned that there were very serious underlying security flaws with South Korea’s choice of app. And from what we’ve heard about COVID Alert, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is struggling to get access to the information it needs to do a thorough review of COVID Alert. All in all, the short history of tracing apps so far hasn’t done much to build trust with Canadians.”

In the past year alone, there have been significant revelations about how Canadians’ personal data is being collected, used, and in many cases - breached and abused. These include federal and provincial police forces repeatedly misrepresenting their use of highly controversial Clearview AI facial recognition software to the public; the LifeLabs medical data breach, which affected 15 million people’s sensitive health data; and the news that Facebook would face just $9 million in fines for 6 years of misrepresenting their privacy policies - one year after a US court charged the company $5 billion on similar charges.

Estimates of minimum adoption rates for contact tracing apps to be viable vary between 10% - 80%. Globally, very few countries have managed to surpass 15% adoption of contact tracing apps.

Seven weeks after launch, 5% of the population of Alberta had downloaded the Alberta contact tracing app, named ABTraceTogether.

Over 14,000 people have called on the federal government to update privacy laws through an OpenMedia petition.

Key takeaways from the polling data include:

  • 29% of those surveyed were ‘definitely’ or ‘very’ likely to download the app;
  • The most common (41%) reason given for not downloading the app was concern about privacy;
  • Respondents in Alberta, where a COVID tracing app has previously launched, were the least trusting of the government to protect their personal data;
  • 16% of those surveyed do not have a data plan-equipped smart phone to download the app.

About OpenMedia

OpenMedia works to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free. We create community-driven campaigns to engage, educate, and empower people to safeguard the Internet.

OpenMedia works to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free. We create community-driven campaigns to engage, educate, and empower people to safeguard the Internet. Take action now

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