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EDITORIAL – Privacy risks of tracing app are worth it in COVID-19 fight

(Image: ABTraceTogether app)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

WHEN PREMIER JOHN HORGAN announced Wednesday a four-phased transition toward a semblance of normality, he barely mentioned the importance of contact tracing but it’s something that will be essential to stay ahead of COVID-19.

Contact tracing is simply figuring out who’s involved in the chain of transmission. This involves a lot of sleuthing and paperwork, and it’s slow and laborious.

If we’re to gradually re-open the B.C. economy and social life over the next few months, accelerated tracking is essential. Fortunately, there’s an app for that.

Alberta has already launched one of its own, Newfoundland and Labrador is into it as well, and other provinces are thinking about it. Several countries including Australia, China, Singapore and South Korea are using it, too.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says B.C. is looking at the technology although, as she says, “everybody and their dog has an app out right now.”

The gist of it is that users put the app onto their mobile phones, and it tracks their movements. When someone is diagnosed with COVID-19, he or she voluntarily reports it to the app. Others using the app will receive an alert if they’ve been in close proximity to the infected person.

It would dramatically improve tracking, yet civil libertarians are sounding alarm bells, raising concerns about privacy and the implications of mass surveillance.

Crises affecting our entire population inevitably result in limitations on our civil rights. We’ve already seen that with this pandemic.
But while we must be vigilant, some incursions, and some risks, are a necessity if we’re going to win this war, so let’s suck it up and get with the program. What we really need is not resistance, but national implementation rather than provinces fumbling around with it on their own.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He writes five commentaries a week for CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

About Mel Rothenburger (7575 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on EDITORIAL – Privacy risks of tracing app are worth it in COVID-19 fight

  1. Jim Irwin // May 7, 2020 at 8:33 AM // Reply

    So far Mel, the provinces have been fumbling around with this pandemic pretty effectively. Aside from closing the borders too late the feds haven’t been involved, aside from throwing money around. Actually, they were throwing money around before COVID so I guess they haven’t really had to do very much at all. I say that we let the provinces carry on with the management of the health crisis. If they want to cooperate with each other, that’s fine, but keep the feds out of it.

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