Ontario Government to Launch COVID Alert, a Contact Tracing App, in July

  • June 26, 2020
  • Jennifer McKenzie, Amanda Branch and Raffi Dergalstanian

On June 18, 2020, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that the Federal Government will be rolling out a free, voluntary, digital contact tracing app.[1]

Contract tracing raises a lot of privacy concerns. When Google and Apple announced in April that they would partner together to help governments develop this technology, concerns were raised regarding the efficacy of the app and the privacy of its users.

Shortly after the Google and Apple announcement, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (“OPC”) published an assessment framework, “A Framework for the Government of Canada to Assess Privacy-Impactful Initiatives in Response to COVID-19” to assist government institutions “guide the development of privacy impactful initiatives that seek to alleviate the effects of the pandemic.”[2] Recommendations include ensuring that any of the proposed measures are necessary and proportionate, meaning that they limit the purposes for which personal information is collected and used and to use de-identified or aggregated data wherever possible.

In view of the privacy concerns, in his announcement about the app, Prime Minister Trudeau stated the Federal Government had spoken to the OPC; however, the OPC stated that they were only recently contacted by Health Canada regarding a COVID-19 exposure notification app and are awaiting information before providing recommendations to the Government of Canada.