If you are using the ABTraceTogether app on iPhone, don’t lose your phone

by Stephen Dafoe

ABTraceTogether is a contact tracing app that can alert you if you come in contact with someone with COVID-19, provided they, too are using the app. To date, only 5 per cent of Albertans are using the app.

Alberta Information and Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton released her ABTraceTogether privacy impact assessment (PIA) report Thursday and expressed concerns for those using the app on Apple products.

“[G]iven the need to run ABTraceTogether in the foreground on Apple devices, there is a security risk. Running the app on Apple devices requires a device to remain unlocked, which significantly increases risk in case of theft or loss,”  Clayton said.

That risk increases on Apple products for employers in the public, health and private sectors that have obligations to reasonably safeguard health or personal information under Alberta’s three privacy laws.

Clayton said her office prioritized the review of ABTraceTogether and took the additional step of publishing Thursday’s report in the interests of transparency.

“While I am not in a position to endorse a particular technology solution, we found Alberta Health was mindful of privacy and security in deploying the app,” Clayton said.

The report highlights the apps clear purpose as a supplement to already-established contract-tracing processes, as well as Alberta Health’s consent-based approach, and the limited collection of health or personal information when registering to use the app.

The Office of Information and Privacy Commissioner accepted the ABTraceTogether PIA with recommendations, including clarifying inconsistencies found between documentation provided during the PIA review and what is made available publicly. The OIPC also recommended AH to continue to report publicly on the use and effectiveness of ABTraceTogether, and on its plans to dismantle the app when the time comes.

The full report is online at https://www.oipc.ab.ca/media/1089098/Report_ABTraceTogether_PIA_Review_Jun2020.pdf

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