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Thread: Canada's Public Health Agency Criticized for Tracking 33M Mobile Devices

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    Default Canada's Public Health Agency Criticized for Tracking 33M Mobile Devices

    The Public Health Agency of Canada (or PHAC) "accessed location data from 33 million mobile devices to monitor people's movement during lockdown," reports Canada's National Post newspaper:"Due to the urgency of the pandemic, PHAC collected and used mobility data, such as cell-tower location data, throughout the COVID-19 response," a spokesperson told National Post... PHAC used the location data to evaluate the effectiveness of public lockdown measures and allow the Agency to "understand possible links between movement of populations within Canada and spread of COVID-19," the spokesperson said.

    In March, the Agency awarded a contract to the Telus Data For Good program to provide "de-identified and aggregated data" of movement trends in Canada. The contract expired in October, and PHAC no longer has access to the location data, the spokesperson said. The Agency is planning to track population movement for roughly the next five years, including to address other public health issues, such as "other infectious diseases, chronic disease prevention and mental health," the spokesperson added.

    Privacy advocates raised concerns to the National Post about the long-term implications of the program. "I think that the Canadian public will find out about many other such unauthorized surveillance initiatives before the pandemic is over — and afterwards," David Lyon, author of Pandemic Surveillance and former director of the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queen's University, said in an email.... Increased use of surveillance technology during the COVID-19 pandemic has created a new normal in the name of security, Lyon said. "The pandemic has created opportunities for a massive surveillance surge on many levels — not only for public health, but also for monitoring those working, shopping and learning from home."

    "Evidence is coming in from many sources, from countries around the world, that what was seen as a huge surveillance surge — post 9/11 — is now completely upstaged by pandemic surveillance," he added.

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