Shomporko Desk:-The federal government’s new COVID Alert application doesn’t offer 100 percent security and could permit some who test positive for the coronavirus to be identified, especially the individuals who live in small communities or who don’t interact with many people.
When the administration revealed the application on Friday, it focused on that users’ privacy is protected because it “has no way of knowing your location, your name or address,” among other details.
The individuals who download the application and later test positive enter a special code to notify people who have been close to them for at least 15 minutes sometime over the previous two weeks. The notification doesn’t identify who tested positive and maintains their privacy, the government said.
“Anonymous’ implies that there is no risk whatsoever that a person could be identified,” they wrote. “However, and although we all agreed that while there’s a very, very low risk that someone could be re-identified through the app, it isn’t necessarily zero.
“Someone living in a remote area and only interacting with one or two other people could theoretically be identified by their neighbours if they received exposure notification alerts, for example.”
Vito Pilieci, the spokesman for Therrien, confirms that the privacy commissioner’s office had concerns about the claims the government wanted to make.
“True anonymity, technically speaking, would require the complete and permanent impossibility of reversing the data processes at play, which could reveal sources of personal information and so re-identify individuals,” he said.
“Our understanding of the situation is that while the identification of users would be highly improbable, it would not be impossible.”
The government changed its claims and Therrien endorsed the app.
In its more detailed privacy review released last week, Therrien’s office also warns that while the use of the app is voluntary, some companies may try to force employees or clients to use it.
The report notes that some countries have made it against the law to force people to use a contact tracing or notification app.
The report says it is “another failing of our current laws” that this isn’t possible in Canada.
Canada hasn’t updated its privacy laws in decades.
Therrien’s office also warned that some “commercial entities” will be able to determine who has downloaded and used the app.
“These entities should not be permitted to monitor their customers’ use of the COVID Alert app.”
While the app has “exceptionally strong encryption and cryptographic hashing functions,” the system retains users’ IP addresses, which the privacy commissioner’s office said, “may be shared with law enforcement to facilitate an investigation.”
Photo credit: Health Canada
News source: CBC News