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Trudeau says tracking Canadians with their cell phones 'on the table'

The Liberal government says using location tracking technology is not totally off the table, Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.
Roberto Wakerell-Cruz Montreal, QC

The Liberal government says using location tracking technology is not totally off the table, Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.

“I think we recognize that in an emergency situation we need to take certain steps that wouldn’t be taken in a non-emergency situation, but as far as I know that is not a situation we are looking at right now,” he said.

“But … all options are on the table to do what is necessary to keep Canadians safe.”

Toronto City Mayor John Tory says his city has already implemented similar measures to track Torontonian's phones.

Tory told tech-news site The Logic that cellphone companies were giving him "all the data on the pinging off their network on the weekend" so that they could track where people were congregating.

"[It's] something we're doing now... I asked for it, and I'm getting it," said Tory.

Tory's comments stand opposite the official stance of the city of Toronto, though, who say they "will not be using cell phone location data."

“The City of Toronto will not be using cell phone location data, nor does it have such data, to determine where people are not practicing physical distancing. We know the vast majority of people who are not essential or critical workers are staying home to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” said spokesperson Brad Ross in an e-mail statement, as per Global News.

In countries like South Korea, phone and credit card data are used to track the prior movements of those who have contracted the disease. If someone was in close contact with someone who has contracted the disease, a notification is sent to their phone.

In South Korea, those potentially exposed to the disease is quarantined at home and is tracked with GPS technology. Fines for exiting their households are roughly $8,000.

Israel has also started using cellular data to track positive cases. The system was originally put in place to track suspected terrorists.

Canada's confirmed cases exceeded 2,500 as of Tuesday.

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