February 8, 2022
Access to a program that tracked millions of cellphone users in the name of lockdown compliance has been denied to federal privacy investigators, says Blacklock’s Reporter.
The federal government secretly tracked 33 million Canadians through their mobile devices by using cell tower locators.
“We wanted to look under the hood and see if data were depersonalized correctly,” said Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien. “The government declined.”
Therrien said cellphone users were not aware of the practice and therefore were not able to opt out or give consent.
Undisclosed sums of money were paid by the Public Health Agency for a data scoop on movements of cellphone users through telecom companies’ tower tracking.
Therrien — while testifying at the Commons ethics committee — said people need to know the programs exists, as most would never have known their movements were tracked.
The commissioner said an “urgent need” to rewrite federal privacy laws was highlighted by the widespread data scoop, adding the Privacy Act should establish “privacy as a human right so as to give privacy its appropriate weight.”
The Public Health Agency gave no reason why it did not allow federal investigators to review the program to ensure all data were properly anonymized.