Big Brother busted for watching Canadians without telling them

COVID has been a blessing to nosy government bureaucrats all over the world.  The specter of a "pandemic" offered them an excuse to override traditional concerns about privacy in the name of fighting a scary version of the flu that, if treated early, is a threat mostly to the elderly and those already suffering from serious health problems.

More often than not, the public remain unaware that their governments are spying on them.  That was the case in Canada, where, until a couple of days ago, the public were unaware that the government was tracking their movements using cell phone location data.  Swiker Oil writes in the National Post:

The Public Health Agency of Canada accessed location data from 33 million mobile devices to monitor people's movement during lockdown, the agency revealed this week.

They "revealed" it only because they were caught:

The program's existence was first brought to wider attention by Blacklock's Reporter.

(Blacklock's Reporter is a website whose slogan is "Minding Ottawa's Business.")

Once the bureaucrats were outed, they played defense:

"Due to the urgency of the pandemic, (PHAC) collected and used mobility data, such as cell-tower location data, throughout the COVID-19 response," a spokesperson told National Post.

"Urgency" is a great excuse, isn't it?  But we're supposed to feel safe because

[i]n March, the Agency awarded a contract to the Telus Data For Good program to provide "de-identified and aggregated data" of movement trends in Canada. The contract expired in October, and PHAC no longer has access to the location data, the spokesperson said.

Can "de-identified" data be "re-identified"?  I bet it can, because the original data have personal identities attached.  

Now that they have access to the data, there are lots of other things the bureaucrats want to know about their fellow Canadians:

The Agency is planning to track population movement for roughly the next five years, including to address other public health issues, such as "other infectious diseases, chronic disease prevention and mental health," the spokesperson added.

Guarding mental health by making sure people don't come into contact with "purveyors of misinformation"?  The government watching your moves to protect your mental health sounds pretty totalitarian to me, eh?

And Canadians' movements will be widely shared among government bodies:

Mobility data analysis "helps to advance public health objectives," the PHAC spokesperson said. The findings have been regularly shared with provinces and territories via the special advisory committee to "inform public health messaging, planning and policy development," the spokesperson said.

Good luck, Canadians.  You're nice people, and power-hungry totalitarians eat nice people for breakfast.

Photo credit: J. SmithCC BY-SA 2.5 license.

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