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Respect for personal information must underpin vaccine passports: privacy watchdogs

Last Updated May 19, 2021 at 1:56 pm PDT

Syringes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine sit in a tray in a vaccination room at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

OTTAWA — Canada’s privacy commissioners say respect for laws and principles governing personal information must guide the introduction of proof-of-vaccination certificates that could smooth the transition to post-pandemic life.

A joint statement today by federal, provincial and territorial privacy commissioners says “vaccine passports” must comply with applicable privacy laws and incorporate best practices.

Such passports, whether in paper or digital form, can help someone prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or that they have immunity, opening the door to travel, services and facilities.

The commissioners say while this might offer substantial public benefit, it is an encroachment on civil liberties that should be taken only after careful consideration.

They recommend conditions including clear legal authority for introducing use of vaccine passports for each intended purpose.

Such legal authority might come from a new law, an existing statute or a public health order.