Many people in Canada started talking this week about reopening. Reopening our homes, our businesses, the economy. There is a lot to reopen, for sure. But the big question no one seems to have the complete answer to is how we do this safely.
It seems like a gradual approach is a must. But this week, I dealt with other questions surrounding this grand reopening that involved privacy issues.
For example, considering Canada experienced a massive outbreak of COVID-19 cases from a meat-packing plant in Alberta, is it reasonable to think that other similar types of employers might use COVID-19 testing of its employees as a condition to coming back to work? What if your business is not a meat-packing plant? What are the working conditions that would justify requiring your employees to be medically tested for a virus prior to coming to work?
In Canada, we have a pretty sophisticated regime when it comes to workplace alcohol and drug testing. It is rooted in both human rights and privacy law and policy. Can we extrapolate from that regime to determine if COVID-19 testing within the workplace should be permitted?
The workplace drug and alcohol testing uses the same test the privacy world uses when evaluating whether or not the processing of personal information is reasonable. That is, you ask: 1) Is the purpose for collecting this information a bona fide one? 2) Does it logically follow that the collection of this information will fulfill that legitimate purpose? 3) Is the loss of privacy proportional to the gain to be had? 4) Is there a less invasive way to reach that legitimate purpose?
In the end, it’s going to be up to each employer to decide if, when and how they reopen. I noticed that the privacy commissioners came out with advice on contact tracing apps (which I wrote about last week). Maybe next week, they will come out with guidance on the privacy implications of testing workers who are going back to their jobs. We could use some out here. I mean, in here (we don’t go out anymore). You know what I mean.
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