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Privacy issues found with Telus health app: Alberta commissioner

Last Updated Jul 29, 2021 at 7:51 pm MDT

A woman is silhouetted as the Telus Corp. logo is displayed on a screen during a company event in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday October 2, 2015. Telus Corp. raised its dividend as it reported a first-quarter profit of $437 million, up from $412 million a year ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

EDMONTON – An investigation by Alberta’s privacy commissioner has outlined some concerns with the Telus Health MyCare app.

The concerns about the app, which is operated by Babylon Health, surround the collection and use of government-issued ID or selfie photos, along with issues regarding audio recordings of consultations with physicians.

“Babylon did not establish that it is reasonable to collect this extent of personal information in order to verify identity, and detect and prevent fraud,” reads a report from the commissioner.

“Collecting and using copies of government-issued ID and selfie photos from patients through the Babylon app goes beyond what is essential to verify identity and provide health services. Other simpler, effective methods exist for this purpose and are consistent with provincial and national guidelines for verifying identity for virtual health care purposes.”

The province says the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) investigation found the app’s privacy policy was unclear, lengthy, and contained inaccuracies, including not clearly identifying the purposes for which personal information is collected.

The report released Thursday had 31 findings and makes 20 recommendations.

The privacy commissioner’s office does note steps that have been taken to address a number of the issues identified through the investigation.

660 NEWS reached out to Telus regarding the issues, in which it responded:

“We are confident the TELUS Health MyCare virtual care service meets or exceeds all privacy requirements set out in Alberta’s legislation, including the matters raised by the recent report from Alberta’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OIPC). We are constantly enhancing our privacy program and we recently updated our privacy policy, internal data policies, and agreements with our physicians; and we continue to work cooperatively with the OIPC. Protecting our customers’ privacy and safeguarding their personal information is paramount and we want to assure users of TELUS Health MyCare that their privacy is and has always been respected.”

NDP Leader Rachel Notley responded to the concerns that were raised and says this is a result of the province rushing into a decision to use the tech.

“Instead of doing that again, I would suggest that they pull back, acknowledge that they a made series of mistakes and sit down and consult with physicians on first whether this is the right path forward, and then if they conclude that it is, how to do it in a way that protects the rights of Albertans,” Notley said.