January 27, 2022

The Queens County Citizen

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Geolocation data: Call for call suspension for block tenders

Geolocation data: Call for call suspension for block tenders

Black Quebecois is calling on the federal government to suspend calls for tenders, looking for a company that can provide geolocation data on Canadians for public health purposes.

After agreeing to use geolocation data for 33 million cell phones based on emergencies, Health Canada published a call for tenders on December 17 to find a company that could provide it. Data until 2023, the contract is likely to be extended. Three years.

“We underestimate the importance of this data,” said Rene Willemure, a Black member and ethics expert. The latter is not “against the idea”, but one wonders whether the government’s request is commensurate with the expected benefits in terms of public health.

“Looking at 33 million cell phones is a big deal! It’s unparalleled, never seen before. This is one of the things that can not be done in the dark. “

Because there is ambiguity, according to him. The government began calling for tenders before the holidays on December 17, the day after the adjournment of Parliament. The application deadline is scheduled for January 21 or 10 days before the resumption of work.

Mr. Willemore wants the Ethics Committee to resume work urgently. “I don’t guess the wrong time [du gouvernement], But I would say it needs to be investigated, ”he suggested.

“We are at risk of data theft, leakage and error. But above all, there is intelligence, which is implicit, ”the ethicist added. “Once the watch button is opened, you will be seen for the rest of your life, without a time limit.”

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In an email to the QMI Agency, Health Canada argued that “reliable, timely and relevant data on health and public health are needed to inform policy and decision making in public health emergencies and to improve long-term public health outcomes in Canada.”

The Ministry ensures that data collection must respect privacy. The company will have to “process” these to ensure consumer anonymity before handing them over to the government. However, as various experts have pointed out, this anonymous data can be easily “rediscovered” by Mr. Villemure underlined.

Health Canada noted that “PHAC” geolocation data helped assess the impact of public health restrictions over the past year, helping to better understand the response of the public during regulatory actions.

The issue is also troubling Conservatives, who earlier this week called on the Office of the Privacy Commissioner in Canada to look into the government’s tracking of public data last year.

Called to comment on the question, the Office of the Canadian Privacy Commissioner, which has been contacted by Health Canada on call development for tenders, said it was in consultation with the ministry, but did not want any further expansion. .