COVID-19 raises concerns about how personal information gathered and kept on P.E.I.

·2 min read
P.E.I. Privacy Commissioner Denise Doiron addresses a government standing committee on health and social development Wednesday.
P.E.I. Privacy Commissioner Denise Doiron addresses a government standing committee on health and social development Wednesday.

(CBC - image credit)

P.E.I.'s privacy commissioner says her office has received calls from the public concerned about personal information being collected by the government and private businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"People were concerned about the authority to collect the information, the amount of information that was being collected and kinds of information that was being collected," Denise Doiron told a standing committee on health and social development Wednesday.

Doiron said she made recommendations to the Chief Public Health Office, as well as private businesses, though she noted her office does not have jurisdiction over them.

One issue that was raised was how businesses, such as restaurants, collect names and phone numbers of clients for contact tracing, which is required by the Chief Public Health Office. She said the information should not be kept for more than 30 days, and should not be in plain view of other customers.

"One of the things that we had recommended was for restaurants, for example, if there is a hostess or a host, that they have control over it and they write the person's name and contact information down so it's not visible basically by anyone coming in behind them," Doiron said.

We did do some investigation but we were satisfied that the public bodies were doing everything they needed to do. — Denise Doiron

Another area of concern was employers using digital thermometers or other devices to take the temperature of employees. She said that information should only be used to determine if it's safe for an employee to come to work, and if they should be sent to get a COVID-19 test.

"That should not be used for any other purpose and ideally should not be kept beyond really that day," Doiron said.

The Privacy Commissioner's Office also received calls, especially early in the pandemic when travel restrictions were first introduced, about the amount of information collected by public health officials.

She said though the Chief Public Health Office was acting within its rights under the Public Health Act, "there was some information that was probably a little bit more than was necessary so when we pointed that out they very quickly made changes to that."

Doiron said she has no issues with the information now being collected from people arriving at the Confederation Bridge and Charlottetown Airport.

"We did do some investigation but we were satisfied that the public bodies were doing everything they needed to do around ensuring they were collecting the information and they were keeping it safe and secure and any recommendations we did make that they did accept and comply with."

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