Photo: Francois Mori, Associated Press
The use of the application is based on the willingness of people to use it and enter data on their health. The data would be anonymous if they were shared with public Health.
The quebec laws do not allow to supervise adequately apps to locate people who may have been infected by the COVID-19, warns the president of the Commission of access to information (CAI), Me Diane Poitras. Not only do these applications raise issues about the privacy, but they could also lead to some drift.
“There is a risk of excluding people from entering public places,” said the lawyer in interview to the Duty. There is a risk of discrimination because this is not a diagnostic tool, an application of the “tracing”. It does not tell us if you have contracted the disease or not, so it is necessary to pay attention to the decisions that it is likely to take based on the information that is there. “
The prime minister François Legault has opened the door Thursday to the use of such an application in Quebec, while rejecting the idea of a public debate. “First, it must be done with the permission of the person, he had said at the press conference. Therefore, we will not use data without the permission of the person. And then, we are going to ensure the security on the data. “
“In the event that such an application would be suggested and deemed necessary by the public Health — because it is the keystone of all of this — it would not happen without the consent of the people “, added the minister of Justice, Sonia LeBel. She then mentioned that the CAI would be “involved in the” just as his own cabinet to ensure that we protect the personal information of citizens.
Québec solidaire had tried without success Thursday to obtain a parliamentary committee two days to hear the Institut québécois artificial intelligence (MILA), which develops such an application, and other experts. The members of the Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ), in the majority, had refused to discuss it. The League of rights and freedoms has denounced this refusal which shows, according to her, the “bias” of the government ” for the proponents of these tools “.
Tool déconfinement ?
The Institut québécois artificial intelligence (MILA) is said to have had discussions with the government Legault, but also the City of Montreal, the federal government, Ontario and British Columbia. “We are completely in favour of a public debate, said the president of MILA, Valerie Pisano, in an interview. There is 100% agreement that this is an important decision for both the citizens and our governments. “The Institute has published a white paper recently on the search of contacts through mobile applications in order to launch the debate.
“We do not trace people, tracing the virus,” she explained. In other words, the application saves the contacts that people have had them through the Bluetooth technology on their smart phones. “You and me, if we do not know each other, and one is to spend a number of minutes to close, our phones are going to develop a small secret handshake and if, possibly you’re COVID positive, this signal will be sent to my device for me to advise me of the caution without that you will never need to call me, without that public Health has need to call me. “The goal is to limit the spread of the coronavirus, while Quebec is in a full phase of déconfinement.
The use of the application is based on the willingness of people to use it and enter data on their health. The data would be anonymous if they were shared with public Health. MILA does the will not without the green light from the government.
However, the legislation is not sufficiently clear, according to Me Diane Poitras. “There is nothing that would prohibit or would sanction an employer or a merchant, to prohibit the access or requires its employees, for example, to download and use the app, or wish to review the recommendations or information that may be in the application “, has she given for example.
And the effectiveness of these applications remains to be demonstrated, ” she says. “There are some countries that have used it with some effectiveness, but the application was mandatory and was accompanied by other measures highly coercive and highly intrusive, which would not be acceptable in Quebec,” she said, referring, among others, to China.
If he gives the go-ahead, the government should therefore ensure that the evaluation of the application in the course of the road and stop recommending the use if it is not effective. The data collected should then be destroyed. “This is another element that should be part of the legal framework or tags imposed formal that should be in place before one uses a tool like this “, she reported. An independent body such as the CAI, however, should ensure compliance of these tags.
The commissioners responsible for the privacy federal, provincial and territorial governments signed a joint declaration at the beginning of the month of may, with the principles that governments should follow before recommending this type of application. “It remains a tool of surveillance that a few months ago, we would never have considered using, has noticed Me Poitras.
Meanwhile, at least one other developer is trying to convince the government Legault for help, to deploy its application. An entry has been made recently in the lobbyists registry for the account of the firm of Deloitte in this sense. In Ottawa, the prime minister Justin Trudeau has indicated there is about a week that it expects to “strongly recommend” an app when it is ready.