Privacy watchdogs endorse COVID Alert app

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TORONTO – The privacy watchdogs for Canada and Ontario are endorsing a newly-launched smartphone application designed to alert users if they’ve been near someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

Federal privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien and provincial commissioner Patricia Kosseim issued a joint statement Friday supporting use of the app, which uses Bluetooth to ping other devices within a ten metre radius.

“Canadians can opt to use this technology knowing it includes very significant privacy protections,” said Therrien. “I will use it.”

The governments worked with BlackBerry and Shopify to design the app, and first launched it in Ontario on Friday.

The app conforms with the key principles set out in an earlier joint statement by federal, provincial, and territorial privacy commissioners, Therrien and Kosseim said. Those principles included meaningful consent, transparency, clear basis in law, minimal intrusiveness, effectiveness, and purpose limitation.

In a Friday press conference, Premier Doug Ford assured the public the app doesn’t collect personal information or track a user’s location, and warned the app will only be effective if adopted by a critical mass of Ontarians.

Kosseim believes there are sufficient safeguards to justify trust in the technology.

“This app will only work if people …

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