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PIAC files new CRTC Application regarding COVID Alert, Alberta apps

OTTAWA – 9 September 2020 – The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) today filed with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) an Application requesting CRTC oversight of potential linkages between IP addresses generated by use of Health Canada’s “COVID Alert” app (as well as similar uses of IP addresses and additionally, mobile phone numbers, by the “ABTraceTogether” app in Alberta) and telecommunications subscriber information.

The Application requests that the CRTC ensure that all Canadian cellphone and Internet companies’  involvement in potential or actual linkages of information from contact-tracing apps to confidential telecommunications information held by cellphone and Internet companies for public health purposes is done in accordance with privacy requirements of Canada’s telecommunications law.

PIAC Executive Director John Lawford stated: “Now we know how COVID Alert and ABTraceTogether work, PIAC sees a potential personal information “leak” if the government uses info from the apps to ask cellphone companies for more information on users. The CRTC must set out rules limiting any such access requests by the government to protect Canadians’ privacy.”

A previous Application was filed by PIAC with the CRTC requesting oversight of pandemic “contact-tracing” apps and network services that may be offered for Canadians to download to their smartphones on 4 April 2020 but was suspended by the CRTC).

Lawford noted that consumers who are concerned about government access can take the practical step of using a virtual private network app while operating the COVID Alert and ABTraceTogether apps: “Using a VPN on your phone will allow Canadians to use these apps worry-free and still help combat COVID-19. But what really would help Canadians trust these apps are clear legal rules to limit any possible government access to personal information.”

For more information, please contact:

John Lawford
Executive Director/General Counsel
Public Interest Advocacy Centre
285 McLeod Street – Suite 200
Ottawa, ON  K2P 1A1
613-562-4002 x 25
Fax 562-0007
Cell: 613-447-8125

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