Requirement for N.B. restaurants to collect contact information raises privacy questions

With businesses reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic, guidelines allowing them to do so vary by province.

New Brunswick restaurants require all patrons who dine-in to leave a name and phone number, to be used in the event contact tracing needs to be done through the restaurant.

Halifax-based privacy lawyer David Fraser says this raises questions.

“It does make sense to collect some of that information,” Fraser says. “But you always need to be thinking about the balance. What’s the privacy impact and does it outweigh the public health benefit?”

Read more: N.B. COVID rules require venues collect patrons’ contact info in case of outbreak

Fraser says people need to know why the information is being collected and what happens to it.

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“How long is it going to be kept for and who’s going to have access to it?” he asks.

In a written statement provided to Global News, WorkSafeNB’s executive director of corporate communications Laragh Dooley says that’s up to the restaurants.

“It is the individual business’s responsibility to maintain the contact information and make it available upon request by WorkSafeNB or Public Safety in the event of a community outbreak,” Dooley says.

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Dooley says the guideline was put in place on May 8, when it was communicated to the office’s 14,000 members.

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But the province didn’t make it widely known until a media release on June 26, and that was the first some restaurant owners heard of it.

“There wasn’t a lot of consultation, so unfortunately, we didn’t know much about it,” says James Rilett, Restaurants Canada spokesperson.

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“It was put in the emergency order but it wasn’t really publicized.”

READ MORE: Homestead Restaurant in Riverview, N.B., reopens dining area amid ‘new world’

Fraser says consumers should always ask questions when their personal information is taken down.

“The only way we get to the bottom of these sorts of things is if people ask the questions,” he says.

“If you go into a restaurant and they ask for your contact information, say, ‘Well, Why do you need this?'”

He says you’re within your rights to do so, but you shouldn’t be argumentative about it.

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