HomeNationalFeds explore reviving Covid Alert app with increased data hoovering

Feds explore reviving Covid Alert app with increased data hoovering

Federal officials considered how to “ensure the effective creation” of a next-generation contact tracing tool for the future during a Health Canada examination of the Trudeau government’s failed Covid Alert application.

The Public Health Agency of Canada and the Office of Audit and Evaluation at Health Canada (PHAC) conducted the audit titled Evaluation of the National COVID-19 Exposure Notification App.

“The evaluation reviewed a number of lines of evidence, including document and public opinion research (POR) reviews, and interviews with internal and external key informants,” wrote government auditors. 

“As a result, a few lessons learned emerged and should be considered to ensure the successful development and launch of a similar app by the Government of Canada in the future.”

On June 17, 2022, Ottawa ended the $20 million contact tracing initiative when Canadians declined to utilize it. Despite 6.89 million downloads, just 57,704 user keys — or 0.001% of the population — were activated by Canadians.

Only 2,446 verified cases of the virus were found as a consequence of Covid Alert.

The federal government wants to increase data collecting for “public health” purposes despite the extreme low usage statistics, as long as privacy rights are respected. In July there was a large amount of trust issues reported for the Covid alert app

“While keeping privacy at the core of app design, explore options to increase the ability to collect data, including personal information, to aid public health measures,” auditors explained. 

“Any discussion about the collection of personal information would benefit from early engagement of internal privacy experts and (the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.)” 

According to the audit, Canadians’ top reason for not using the app was privacy related issues.

“Trust in government is also clearly an issue. When asked if they believe the government does not collect their personal information and that it does not allow the (Government of Canada) to determine their location, more than one-half (52%) of survey respondents did not believe the government,” the audit read. 

Earlier this year, it was discovered that PHAC was secretly spying on 33 million Canadians’ mobile devices. As a result, the agency was compelled to halt a major data collecting program.

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