In brief: Privacy watchdog investigating police misuse of Covid database

By Sabrina Nanji January 5, 2021

Ontario’s privacy watchdog is looking into how some police services used the Covid database before their access was revoked amid the threat of legal action.

The Canadian Constitution Federation had complained to information and privacy commissioner Patricia Kosseim‘s office after the group unearthed documents showing police used the database to look up names unrelated to active calls and did broad-based searches beyond their jurisdictions.

The province revoked access shortly after the Canadian Civil Liberties Association launched a legal challenge against the emergency provision, calling it “intrusive and discriminatory,” and revealing 95,000 searches occurred in a span of a few months.

Kosseim’s office began probing the “potentially disproportionate” number of inquiries made by “several” police outfits to determine if there was any “unlawful use or retention.”

Only four police services satisfied the watchdog’s questions, while the remaining services still have some explaining to do.

“We have opened an investigation file and continue to gather information from them,” the commissioner’s office said, adding that if any reports are produced, they will be made public.

Cops in London seemed surprised to learn they’re part of Kosseim’s broader investigation.