As the second wave of COVID-19 seems to have arrived in many countries, the importance of measures such as social distancing, masks, testing, and tracing takes on increased importance. In Canada, the COVID Alert App is another important part of that toolkit. The app has been downloaded more than 4.5 million times and has been used to alert users to a potential exposure to the virus nearly 1,700 times. Despite the potential benefits, there remain many skeptics. Ann Cavoukian, a three-time Ontario privacy commissioner and one of Canada’s best known privacy experts, joins the LawBytes podcast this week to talk about the exposure notification and how it addresses potential privacy concerns.
Post Tagged with: "covid-19"
Earlier this summer, I posted on why I installed the COVID Alert App, the national exposure notification app designed to provide Canadians with an alert if they may have been exposed to COVID-19. The post discusses the privacy safeguards that have been built into the app, the reviews from both the federal and Ontario provincial privacy commissioners, and points to previous Lawbytes podcasts (Edwards, Clayton, Kosseim) that discuss the use of technology to help counter the spread of the virus. While there were some concerns (notably the ongoing concerns with social inequities), I concluded that the safeguards combined with the public health benefits were enough to justify installation (Apple, Android).
The LawBytes Podcast, Episode 63: Ontario Privacy Commissioner Patricia Kosseim on the COVID Alert App
The Canadian government released its COVID Alert, its COVID-19 exposure notification app, earlier this month starting first with a roll-out in Ontario. I’ve written how I’ve made the decision to install it, noting that the voluntary app does not collect personal information nor provide the government (or anyone else) with location information. The app underwent two privacy reviews, engaging both the federal privacy commissioner and the Ontario information and privacy commissioner.
Patricia Kosseim, the newly appointed Ontario privacy commissioner, had only been on the job for a few hours before she was dealing with the app that was bound to attract public attention. Commissioner Kosseim joins me on the podcast to discuss the app, her review, the interaction between different governments and commissioners, and why she installed the app the day it was released.
The Canadian government officially released COVID Alert, its exposure notification app, on Friday. Ontario is the first province to use it with plans to implement it in the Atlantic provinces and B.C. in the near future (other provinces may follow). I posted several tweets about the app, including one that received hundreds of likes and retweets indicating that I have installed it (the tweet included links to the Apple and Android versions of the app). Given the interest, this post expands on the tweet by explaining what the app does and doesn’t do and why I think the government has done a good job of addressing many associated concerns.
The LawBytes Podcast, Episode 60: Alberta Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton on the ABTraceTogether Contact Tracing App
From the very outset of the COVID-19 outbreak, public health officials have identified the potential of contact tracing applications to both assist in conventional contact tracing activities and to warn individuals that they may have been in close proximity to someone who tested positive for the virus. The apps have unsurprisingly proven controversial, with some doubting their effectiveness and others concerned about the broader privacy and security implications.
The Government of Alberta was first off the mark with its ABTraceTogether app that launched in May 2020. Alberta Information and Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton recently completed her review of the application with an extensive investigation into its privacy implications that included an examination of the technical details, how the app functions, the role of third parties, and access to the data by contact tracers and other officials. Commissioner Clayton joins me on the podcast to discuss her report, the positive aspects of the app implementation, and the ongoing concerns that her review uncovered.