COVID Alert and Your Privacy

Today, the COVID Alert exposure notification app was launched as an important digital tool to be used among other public health measures, to help control the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario.

I commend the robust safeguards the government has put in place to protect the privacy and security of Ontarians who choose to use the app. I also appreciate the opportunity to consult with the government on this important initiative and their spirit of collaboration and responsiveness in implementing our recommendations.

Because the app is a national initiative intended to be rolled out across the country, our review of the privacy aspects of the app was carried out in coordination with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Our review led to a comprehensive set of recommendations to our respective governments based on the key privacy principles outlined in a joint federal, provincial and territorial statement on contact tracing applications.

After completing a thorough review of the app, and on assurances that our recommendations will be implemented, I’m pleased, along with my federal counterpart, to support the use of the COVID-Alert app.

I recognize that for this app to be ultimately effective in curbing the spread of COVID-19, the public will want — and expect — assurances that their personal information will be protected and that their use of the technology is voluntary.  I urged the Ontario Government, and they have committed, to issue strong public messages encouraging businesses and employers to respect the voluntary nature of COVID Alert by not compelling individuals to use the app or to disclose information about the use of the app.

These are exceptional times, and we have seen the dramatic and tragic effects of COVID-19 on many vulnerable members of our community. While today’s launch of the COVID Alert app marks a significant milestone in the fight to control the spread of COVID-19, the IPC’s work will not stop here. We will continue to monitor that the app is implemented for its intended purpose, that its safeguards are applied as designed to protect privacy, and that its collection and use of personal information continue to be necessary and effective in helping curtail the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario.

Patricia Kosseim

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