Canada’s privacy commissioners are issuing a warning about vaccine passports, saying measures must be taken to ensure Canadians’ personal information is protected.
“While this may offer substantial public benefit, it is an encroachment on civil liberties that should be taken only after careful consideration,” federal, provincial and territorial privacy commissioners and the ombudsperson’s offices in Manitoba and New Brunswick said in a media statement today.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu told CBC News last week that her government is talking with G7 allies about implementing a vaccine passport that would allow Canadians to travel internationally again.
On May 13, Quebec started issuing downloadable QR codes that people can keep on their phones to prove they’ve been vaccinated, but it remains unclear how that digital proof of vaccination will be used.
The privacy commissioners say that if vaccination passports are issued in Canada, steps must be taken to ensure the highest level of privacy protection is maintained so that personal health information is not disclosed.
“Vaccine passports must be developed and implemented in compliance with applicable privacy laws,” the statement said.
The privacy commissioners say governments must ensure there is a legal basis to require proof of vaccination. Canadians travelling internationally, for example, may need to carry proof because destination countries require it.
Businesses and governments that plan to require proof of vaccination, the commissioners said, will need to lay the groundwork for that requirement by introducing new laws or amending existing ones.
The commissioners said that vaccination passports should only contain information necessary to demonstrate vaccination and not other health information that could be compromised. They say that once the pandemic is declared over, or proof of vaccination is no longer needed, passports should be destroyed.
The commissioners also want independent oversight of any vaccine passport program and for Canadians to be told how their information is used and stored.
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