COVID-19: one more step towards a tracking application in Quebec

Encouraged by the support of Quebecers in a survey, the Legault government is seriously considering allowing the application of tracing as an additional tool to fight against the spread of COVID-19.

Even before the start of the Committee on Institutions, which should allow numerous experts in law, ethics and technology to express themselves on the subject, the government brandished the positive results of a public Web consultation.

More than 75% of the 17,000 citizens who participated were in favor of the tracking application which allows people to be informed if they have been in contact with someone with COVID-19.

MP Joëlle Boutin, who represents the government during the commission, indicated that the decision has still not been taken.

But, she admits that Quebec did not wait until the end of the process with the experts before developing the principles that will frame the free and voluntary application if they go ahead.

“There would be no geolocation, no GPS technology. We would rely on a Bluetooth type technology, ”assured the member for Jean-Talon, adding that the tool will be completely anonymous, without biometrics and without collecting personal data. She admits that no technology is perfect, but Bluetooth is less intrusive.




Photo Simon Clark

The app would be the same one used by Ottawa, “COVID-Alert,” which was designed by employees of tech company Shopify.

They refused to participate in the commission and answer questions from elected officials who are concerned about the protection of the privacy of citizens.

On Tuesday, the majority of experts present reminded the government that the effectiveness of the technology has not been demonstrated. That a pilot phase and tests should take place before deployment in Quebec.

The president of the Commission for Ethics in Science and Technology, Jocelyn Maclure, points out that an application is not a major solution to the fight against the virus, but at best it is a complementary measure. He recommends that employers cannot force an employee to download the app and add that creators of technology are not public health specialists.

History professor Yves Gingras also warned Quebec not to be convinced “by sellers of gadgets” who offer “miracle solutions” without having done prior tests.

French computer security experts have advised Quebec not to use an app because of the high security risks.

The League of Rights and Freedoms argued that our laws are not adapted to this new technology in order to protect the population.

The official opposition spokesperson for government administration, Marwah Rizqy, does not believe that an application is useful in the fight against COVID-19 and would not have ensured that the CHSLDs turn into ” dying ”.

“The plotting app won’t answer the real problem. The arms we missed, there, in our CHSLDs, well, it was the army that came to answer that, it was not the tracking application. And on the contrary, according to the various reports that are currently being filed, these applications could create a false sense of security, ”she said, adding that she was concerned about the protection of privacy. “I am very aware that the GAFAMs are chasing this data because they cross-reference data, it is well known. They want to identify our behavior, they want to know what we like to buy. ”

Quebec Solidaire emphasizes for its part that the government must base itself on what has been done elsewhere in the world before making a decision.

“Elsewhere in the world, where these applications have been implemented, they are not effective,” said Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois. “What guarantees us that in Quebec it will be different? Because, for a tool to be useful, it must work, otherwise it is useless. ”

Martin Ouellet, spokesperson for the third opposition group, stresses that the main issue is accessibility to this technology. “Could the government of Quebec provide the means for populations at greater risk to get their hands on this technology?”

The Committee on Institutions takes place until Friday at the National Assembly in the presence of deputies and an expert. It is following this debate of ideas that the government will decide whether it recommends that the population download this tracking application.

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