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The province’s COVID-19 database was ‘used as intended’ Guelph police say

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Guelph police are responding to concerns over its use of a COVID-19 database, which contained the personal information of those who tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The service says it was used by their dispatchers as intended.

Read more: Human rights groups concerned over Guelph police’s use of COVID-19 database

Between April and July, police services in Ontario had access to the names, birth dates and addresses of people who had COVID-19 under the province’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

Guelph police accessed this database 4,057 times. The access raised flags by a group of human rights organizations given that the service had the sixth-highest number of searches of the database out of all the other police services in Ontario.

A letter from the Aboriginal Legal Services, the Black Legal Action Centre, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario was sent to the Guelph Police Services Board demanding answers to a number of questions.

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In a report to the board, Guelph police say access to the database was only by authorized users, all of whom were members of its Communications Unit.

“The COVID-19 portal was used as intended,” the report stated. “As a prudent means to protect first responders from the COVID-19 virus when responding to call for service in a pandemic environment.”

The province said that the purpose of the database was to protect officers when responding to a call and to allow them to make an informed decision about the appropriate level of precaution.

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As for the “unusually high” number of times it was accessed, Guelph police said it did not keep a running tally of how many times it was used and was not comparing their searches with those of other police services.

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Read more: Ontario ends police access to coronavirus database after legal challenge

The report also stated that the province did flag two searches by Guelph police that were potentially inappropriate. In both cases, the search query entered was “Guelph” and the province deemed those to be “broad-based municipal queries.”

An investigation by Guelph police’s professional standards branch showed there were no deliberate misuse or inappropriate access to confidential information.

“These searches are found to be inadvertent and accidental searches where a fragment of information was sent to the database prior to the intended query,” the report stated.

The results of the investigation were submitted to the province and Guelph police say they have not heard back.

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Guelph police said none of the personal information accessed within the database was ever stored in-house.

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The police services board is expected to address the report during a meeting on Thursday afternoon.

The full report can be found on Guelph police’s website.

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