MP Rempel Garner Calls for Oversight of Cell Phone Tracking

Today, Hon. Michelle Rempel Garner, Shadow Minister for Industry and Economic Development, issued the following statement on recent reports that the government may consider using cell phone data to track individuals as part of quarantine and contact tracing efforts during the COVID-19 epidemic:

“The need to stop the spread of COVID-19 is urgent and cell phone data is increasingly being used around the world by public health authorities to identify outbreaks, where people are congregating, and to track the movements of those who have tested positive.

“In response to questions on if Canada would undertake similar measures, Justin Trudeau did not expressly rule out resorting to the tool at some point, saying “all options are on the table.”

“This speculation has left many Canadians wondering what this could mean in terms of their individual privacy. Geolocation data is extremely sensitive because even when it is anonymized, it is very easy to identify someone with this information, for example, the location someone stays at night is almost certainly their home address.

“Therefore, today I’m calling on the government to do the following:

  • Be transparent and let Canadians know in what circumstances the government would consider using these measures;
  • Work with opposition parties to ensure strict safeguards and parliamentary oversight measures are in place prior to deploying any such strategy;
  • Reassure Canadians that this would be done only with express consent and strict limits as to who sees the data, what it can be used for, how it will be securely stored, and for how long it will be stored for;
  • Narrowly define the scope for the collection of the data;
  • Ensure that the collection of this data is temporary with clearly defined end dates.
“Even in times of crisis, we must find balance between the public good and fundamental privacy rights. We cannot let the trampling of these rights become normalized. I will fight for Justin Trudeau to be transparent about any plans to use cell phone data to track Canadians, and to ensure that proper safeguards and oversight be put into place.”
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