June 26, 2022

The Queens County Citizen

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Data collection through public health | For inquiry by the House of Commons Ethics Committee

Data collection through public health |  For inquiry by the House of Commons Ethics Committee

(Ottawa) The House of Commons Ethics Committee is expected to hold an emergency meeting this week to investigate the Public Health Agency’s decision to collect data from millions of cell phones to understand travel patterns during the epidemic.




Mary Wolf
Canadian Press

The House of Commons is still on vacation, but Conservative and Black MPs have called for an urgent meeting with the committee after it was revealed that the agency was trying to expand its data collection system for another year.

The first data tracking agreement ended in collapse. On December 16, the Public Health Agency of Canada issued a new call for tenders between 1 to track cell tower location data across the country.Is January 2019 and May 31, 2023.

The notice stipulates that the data must be accurate, accessible and expeditious, as well as to guarantee confidentiality and transparency. They should not contain personal identifiers.

Pat Kelly, chairman of the Ethics Committee, a Conservative MP from Calgary, told the Canadian Press that he was “in consultation with members of all parties and will hold a meeting this week” to examine the implications of fundraising for cell phone privacy tracking data.

Last week, Conservative MP John Brassard wrote a letter to Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therien asking for an investigation. Mr Brassard said data collection by the Public Health Agency was tantamount to tracking Canadians and raising several “red flags” about privacy.

On Monday, he wrote a letter to Mr Kelly calling for an emergency meeting of the Ethics Committee.

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“It is important that we do not allow the response to COVID-19 to lead to a permanent setback in the rights and freedoms of Canadians,” he told a news conference in Ottawa.

Want to know what steps have been taken to protect privacy.

Bloc Québécois Ethics Representative, René Villemure, Friday Mr. Kelly made a similar request and said the committee had the power to demand that the call be suspended for tenders until the outcome of the inquiry.

Mr Willemore said initiating the process through public health before Parliament stopped for a holiday break “seemed to him a more opaque process than a transparent process”.

Matthew Green, a New Democrat member of the Ethics Committee, is also seeking to suspend further action during the investigation.

Mr Green said the cell phone data collection was “an intrusion on the privacy of Canadians, what information the government collects and plans to collect about them.”

A spokesman for Canada’s Public Health Agency said in a statement on Monday that the agency had consulted with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner about each step of data collection to “ensure that access and use of mobility data follows best practices”.

The statement said the agency would only consider bids for data collection agreements “from vendors that meet the strict security, legal, confidentiality and transparency requirements of the Government of Canada”.

“This means subcontractors must prove that the data they provide is anonymous, comprehensive, clean-up and pre-processed by removing all personal identifiers,” the agency added.