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Only in Canada?

Canada’s health authority has admitted that it was secretly tracking location data from at least 33 million mobile devices to analyze people’s movements during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

The agency collected data, including geolocation information from cell towers, “due to the urgency of the pandemic,” a PHAC spokesman told the National Post earlier this year, essentially confirming a report by Blacklock’s reporter. The tracking data was reportedly only used to assess the effectiveness of lockdown measures and identify possible links between the movement of people and the spread of Covid-19.

PHAC obtained the information, which was “de-identified and aggregated”, through an outside contractor, Canadian telecommunications giant Telus. The contract ran from March to October last year, and PHAC said it would no longer have access to the data after the contract expired.

However, the agency plans to follow the movements of citizens in a similar way over the next five years, for example to prevent the spread of other infectious diseases and improve mental health. The PHAC published a call for tenders for potential contractors last week seeking anonymous mobile data that dates back to January 2019 and runs until at least May 2023.

Critics pointed out that government surveillance of citizens is likely to be more extensive than previously known and could become even more problematic in the years to come.

“I think the Canadian public will learn of many other illicit surveillance initiatives before the pandemic is over – and afterwards,” said data protection officer David Lyon to the Post. He also pointed out that “de-identified” data can easily be “re-identified”.

Author Julius Reuchel said the tracking initiative smacked of a surveillance state spying on citizens “for your safety”. Another writer, Paul Alves, said that with its new contract, PHAC will have direct access to all mobile location data, voicing concerns that “tracking contacts no longer requires permission or an arrest warrant.”

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