Privacy Commission to study mobile data collection programs for health institutions

The House Committee, which oversees privacy issues, unanimously voted Thursday to conduct a survey of the Federal Health Organization’s mobility analysis program, which relies on data obtained from mobile phones.

Conservative lawmakers and ethical critic John Brassard announced their first motion on research at the start of a special meeting of the Standing Committee on Information, Privacy and Access to Ethics. Health officials and committee members also submit a list of witnesses.

“Mr. Chair, there is growing concern that the government seems to be using this pandemic as a means and as a cause of a massive overshoot of Canadians’ right to privacy,” Brotherd said. Said.

“And as members of parliament, it is our duty to ensure that we protect those rights and properly scrutinize and monitor not only the right to privacy but also the constitutional rights of Canadians.”

Mr. Brotherd said the committee has three major issues: the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) data collection contract, and the PHAC Request for Proposal (RFP), which asks contractors to service the cell towers to obtain data. He said he needed to investigate. The general issue of “privacy and data protection in the digital age”.

Last December, PHAC reportedly analyzed Canadians’ anonymized movements since the outbreak of the pandemic, evaluated policies, assembled public messages, and evaluated responses to enforcement measures such as blockades. I did.

PHAC obtains data from Telus’ Data for Good program and the Communications Research Center, which obtained data from the crowdsourcing company Telus. The latter collects data from 300 million devices around the world by embedding software in over 3,000 smartphone applications.

Although all relevant data providers and seekers have somehow stated that the privacy of mobile phone users has been and will continue to be respected through anonymization, some members of the Commission are Canadians. Said that he should receive due diligence from elected officials.

“I think Health Canada has reached a commendable end. I don’t think PHAC was trying to spy on Canadians,” said Brock MP Reneville Mühl, Vice Chairman of the Commission. “But I have a lot of questions about who acted on behalf of PHAC and who collected the data for what and by whom. What was the security process behind all this?”

The Commission’s Liberal Party lawmakers agreed to conduct the review, but PHAC respects Canadian privacy and the mobility analysis it conducts is used in many other jurisdictions and has become a major pandemic tool. Said.

Iqra Khalid, vice chairman of the other committees, said PHAC believed that “it took into account what its accountability, transparency around privacy really looks like.”

“I am grateful for privacy concerns. It is useful to look at how the data is collected and make sure that the Canadian personal mobile phone data is not collected. I think, “said Lisa Hepner of the Liberal MP.

“This is mobility data. It’s used in jurisdictions around the world to help authorities deal with pandemics. It’s very about where people are moving based on zip codes. This is valuable information. “

Villemure attempted to submit a motion to suspend the PHAC’s RFP at the end of the meeting. This was supposed to end on January 21st, but has recently been fixed to end on February 4th. The motion was not fully discussed and could be addressed at the Commission’s next meeting.

Brotherd agreed with the move, and the RFP said, “We need to postpone until we are confident that Canadians will not endanger their data and privacy as a result of this RFP. There is. “

Khalid disagreed, stating that PHAC should not be prevented from obtaining useful tools and that Canadians should trust the safeguards implemented.

“Canada has been very successful in dealing with COVID for the past two years, and we have done so because we have put our trust and trust in the public health authorities,” she said.

Mr. Khalid said he supported the first move to raise the “absolutely valid” issue, but suspending the RFP “must be done last” in connection with the interpretation that the PHAC will track or spy on. Is to stir up fear. ” To Canadians.

Noe Chartier


Noé Charter is a Montreal-based Epoch Times reporter.