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Canada’s vaccine passport faces federal privacy investigation

Major privacy concerns.
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One of those privacy and otherwise intrusive “temporary and voluntary” pandemic measures that governments at some point turned mandatory, and are now working hard to make permanent, is Canada’s ArriveCan app.

But the authorities’ intent to continue to mandate the use of the app for travel well past its “expiry date” is facing more and more opposition, which has now resulted in an official investigation.

A complaint filed with Canada’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner means that this body is investigating how ArriveCan collects and then uses personal information. The source of the complaint has not been revealed considering that the probe is still under way.

Some of the questions asked by privacy advocates ever since the app was introduced in 2020 have been what kind of personal data it collects, and for how long the data is retained and shared between government entities.

The privacy commissioner was first asked to launch a probe into ArriveCan in June 2020, and two months later came up with the response that there were no problems with the app on that front.

ArriveCan is otherwise notorious for technical glitches that too often leave Canadians heading home frustrated and stranded at airports. Meanwhile tourists have become more reluctant to travel to that country, considering the hassle. But opponents hope that complaints focusing on privacy concerns might be what will finally convince the Canadian government to scrap ArriveCan.

Ironically, despite the mounting evidence that the app is causing all manner of inconvenience (and is possibly a privacy nightmare) Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino recently tried to explain its continued use as a “convenience” measure.

Such claims are challenged not only by grassroots activists unhappy with restrictive measures ushered in with the pandemic, but also by officials, such as mayors of towns along the US-Canada border, and even the latter country’s Tourism Industry Association head, who urge the authorities to abandon the use of ArriveCan.

The app can be showcased as an obvious example of the worst case scenario that many have been warning about: Covid measures introduced under the guise of needing to protect public health, only to morph into permanent restrictive policies and tools, with an ever-shifting purpose.

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