Conservatives Ask Privacy Czar to Probe Pandemic Related Use of Mobile Location Data

By The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press
January 5, 2022 Updated: January 5, 2022

OTTAWA—A Conservative MP is asking Canada’s privacy commissioner to investigate federal reliance on data from mobile devices to understand travel patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter to privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien, Tory MP John Brassard accuses the Public Health Agency of Canada of secretly using the pandemic to violate the privacy of Canadians.

The Public Health Agency says analysis of location data helps inform policy, public health messaging, evaluation of measures and other aspects of the government’s response to the pandemic.

It recently posted a tender seeking access to cell tower-based location data stripped of personal identifiers from Jan. 1, 2019, to May 31, 2023, from across Canada.

The Dec. 16 notice says the data must be accurate, accessible and timely as well as ensure privacy and transparency.

Brassard says Canadians expect their elected officials will ensure there is appropriate oversight for such programs, and that the data is rendered permanently unidentifiable and collected only for as long as absolutely necessary.