The Canadian province of Ontario has given police access to coronavirus test results in a move that has raised concerns among civil liberties groups.
The controversy started on April 6 when officials in Ontario revealed that first responders, including police, paramedics, and firefighters, would be able to access the personal information of those who tested positive.
Currently, those who test positive for COVID-19 have their names, addresses, and dates of birth entered into a database. Police can now access that information in what some say is a breach of privacy.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), as well as other organizations, responded on Twitter to the announcement.
“Providing personal health information directly to law enforcement is an extraordinary invasion of privacy,” the CCLA said in a tweet. “Such a measure should only be taken when clearly authorized by law and absolutely necessary given the particular circumstances.”
Abby Deshman, director of a criminal justice program ran by the CCLA, told BuzzFeed News that the Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones has declined to respond to the organization’s questioning.
“Personal health information is among the most private information that people have in their lives, and it is usually extremely tightly controlled and only shared with health providers and only with consent and only when absolutely necessary,” Deshman told BuzzFeed News.
A spokesperson for Jones did, however, provide BuzzFeed News with a statement on the controversial program, which will allegedly expire once the pandemic has passed.
“First responders put their lives on the line every day to protect Ontarians, and they are at great risk of being directly exposed to COVID-19 as they fulfill their frontline duties,” the spokesperson said. “That’s why it’s critical that we protect and support our frontline responders who are fighting to protect us from this virus every day.”
Deshman argues that the database will only provide “a very partial picture of who’s carrying COVID-19, and it may also be out of date.”
While officials claim that “strict protocols” are in place to restrict access to the data, it remains unclear what those protocols entail.
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H/T BuzzFeed News