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Collection of cell phone data by the PHAC: Minister Duclos summoned | Coronavirus


At an emergency meeting on Thursday, the Commons committee passed a motion calling on Jean-Yves Duclos and Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, to appear to answer questions. questions about this practice from PHAC.

The House of Commons is still in winter recess, but opposition MPs on the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics have called for an emergency session , when they learned that the Agency was looking to expand this data collection practice.

Jean-Yves Duclos at a press conference

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos

Photo: The Canadian Press/Justin Tang

On December 16, just before the holiday adjournment in Parliament, the agency issued a new tender for access to cell tower and carrier location data, nationwide, between December 1er January 2019 and May 31, 2023.

L’Public Health Agency of Canada explains that these data provide useful information and enable meaningful analysis of population mobility in Canada, useful information to fight the pandemic.

The notice indicates that access to this data must be secure, processed, and timely, as well as being adequately vetted for security, legal, privacy, and transparency considerations. In particular, it must be ensured that the data does not contain any information allowing the identification of the users of the telephones.

Red flags

Conservative ethics critic John Brassard, who is a member of that Commons committee, said the agency’s data collection agitates many red flags regarding confidentiality.

The Bloc Québécois ethics critic, René Villemure, also called last week for an emergency meeting of the committee, of which he is a member. He maintained that the committee had the power to demand the suspension of this call for tenders, pending the outcome of an investigation.

Mr. Villemure believes that the launch of this call for tenders by thePublic Health Agency of Canada, just before Parliament adjourned for the holidays, he seems to be a process more opaque than transparent.

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