New Brunswick, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saskatchewan are among the provinces looking at or planning on creating smartphone apps that would track a user’s whereabouts.
Alberta is the first province to launch an app.
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Known as contact tracing, the apps track those who the user comes in to contact with, commonly by monitoring a device’s Bluetooth signal.
The use of the technology, and the information the apps gather, has become a subject of debate in Canada.
“When we develop these sorts of tools or applications, we’re entering into a totally new class or form of surveillance,” said Christopher Parsons, a senior research associate at Citizen Lab, part of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Policy. “We’ve never had that level of surveillance in this country.”
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Parsons, whose research focuses on data privacy and security, said governments may have good intentions but they need to be prepared for the long-term implications of collecting such data.
“If the government doesn’t communicate what government organizations can or can’t collect with any kind of tracing application,