Contact tracing

Each time I enter a business or government institution, I am asked for personal information for “contact tracing” purposes. Are there rules around how these organizations must handle my personal information?

Ensuring the health and well-being of Ontarians is crucial in the current COVID-19 health crisis. Some of these measures in place, such as contact tracing, can impact privacy and other fundamental rights. Some organizations are required by law to collect customer information to support contact tracing.

Organizations that collect your personal information for contact tracing should do so in a secure way. This means they shouldn’t ask you to add your name to a list where you can see other people’s information (and they can see yours).

People should be able to trust that organizations will only use the personal information they collect for the purpose for which it was intended — protecting public health, or as otherwise required by law. Using this personal information without consent to market or promote sales, instead of its stated purpose for collection — to notify individuals or their contacts of potential COVID-19 exposure — is a breach of that trust.

The IPC oversees Ontario’s access and privacy laws. These laws establish the rules for how Ontario’s public institutions, health care providers, children’s aid societies and other child and family service providers collect, use, and disclose personal information.

If you have a concern about how an institution or organization that we oversee is handling your personal information, you can call our office at 416-326-3333, submit a complaint online using our online complaint forms, or mail a complaint to our office.

The commercial activities of organizations in Ontario are subject to the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. If you have concerns about how a private business or organization is handling your personal information, you can report your concern to the federal privacy commissioner.

The Ontario government recently consulted on whether Ontario should adopt its own privacy sector privacy law for businesses operating within the province. Our office shared its views on the government’s white paper on Modernizing Privacy in Ontario.

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