Federal Privacy Commissioner Launches Investigation into ArriveCAN App

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada has launched an investigation into the ArriveCAN app after a recent complaint raised concerns against it — reports Global News.

“Our office has received and is currently investigating a complaint that raises concerns with respect to the collection of personal information through ArriveCAN and subsequent use of that information,” the Office of the Privacy Commissioner said in a Wednesday email.

The federal government has made the ArriveCAN app mandatory at all Canadian borders. Any travellers crossing into the country must fill out the ArriveCAN app and submit pertinent health information, including COVID-19 vaccination status.

However, privacy and tech experts have periodically raised concerns over the type of personal data the app collects, how long it is stored, and how it is shared between government agencies ever since ArriveCAN was deployed to the field.

“Given the ongoing investigation and consultations, we do not have further details to provide at this time,” the privacy commissioner told Global News when asked for more details on the complaint and resulting probe.

According to an email the privacy commissioner sent to technology expert Bianca Wylie, who also has reservations about the app, the privacy commissioner’s office consulted on the development of ArriveCAN. The privacy commissioner’s recommendations included the need to limit the type of data collected by the app and only collect data that was strictly pertinent and necessary.

That said, the ArriveCAN app was instituted as a COVID-19 prevention measure. With Canada easing up on pandemic regulations across the country, many even wonder why ArriveCAN is still a requirement for travellers.

There are also concerns that Ottawa plans to keep ArriveCAN around and turn it into a pre-customs screening tool.

Earlier this week, the president of the union that represents Canada’s border agents said that 30-40% of travellers don’t fill out the ArriveCAN app properly or don’t use it at all.

While the government maintains that ArriveCAN is reducing processing times for border crossings, those manning Canada’s borders have said it is causing long lines and delays. According to border agents, they are spending more time helping travellers get ArriveCAN sorted than doing their actual jobs.

The app has also been making headlines lately for sending quarantine notifications to fully vaccinated travellers. Earlier this week, the feds admitted there was an issue that resulted in erroneous notifications but said that it has since been fixed.