Both the Ontario Premier and Toronto Mayor have admitted to obtaining cell phone data to track civilians and check whether they are following COVID-19 quarantine restrictions, raising privacy concerns and also how this data was obtained.
In a press conference, Premier Ford said accessing cell service helps his government to check whether people are quarantining or not. The data found roughly 25% of people who should have been quarantining at one point were not.
“These folks are roaming the streets and we’re letting it happen,” Ford said.
Despite concerns of COVID-19 positive patients leaving their homes and spreading the virus, some questioned how the cell phone data was collected in the first place, and whether it is even legal to do so.
Mayor Tory has been doing something similar. The Financial Post reported that Toronto officials have been gathering cellphone location data through telecoms in order to find out where people have been gathering during the COVID-19 shutdown.
“We had…the cellphone companies give us all the data so we could see where were people still congregating,” Tory said in a news conference.
Although some are claiming that the data is anonymous, questions of ethics and legality still remain.
Michael Bryant, the executive director of the Canadian Centre for Civil Liberties told the Financial Post that Tory’s actions are “not what’s supposed to happen ever…unless there is explicit legal authority to do this.”
“It’s not legal, it’s not authorized,” Bryant added.
True North News first reported that Premier Ford was being “tight-lipped” on how his government accessed the cell phone data, making the actions even more suspicious.
In a statement to LifeSiteNews, Ivana Yelich, Director of Media Relations to Ford, said that the data was anonymized and provided through third-party vendors. She also said that the data was mainly of travelers coming into Canada from the US which helped the government track whether they were following the mandatory 14-day quarantine.
As the pandemic continues, it is unclear whether the government is still accessing such data and in what quantity.