COVID Contact Tracing: Opening Pandora’s box

Date: June 3, 2020


From: 5:00 pm To: 6:30 pm (EST)

The COVID-19 pandemic is a deadly crisis and, an opportunity for rapid technological and social change. Contact Tracing, a longstanding public health strategy for managing the spread of infections is a prime area for innovation. Contact tracing works by trying to identify everyone whom a sick person may have exposed. Then reaching out to potentially exposed people to help them take appropriate action.

To date, this has been a labour-intensive manual process, but the potential and prevalence of mobile for proximity and location tracking present a new and tempting Pandora’s box for epidemiological surveillance. Selectively delivering individualized alerts about potential exposure may be a significant tool for managing current and future outbreaks, informing health policy and expediting recovery.

But while there may be initial public health benefits, there may also be significant long-term risks and unintended consequences of their deployment.

Join us for a discussion of “Contact Tracing Apps”: How do they work? What are the trade-offs? Can we reap the benefits and minimize risks by building in Privacy by Design?

Allan Kaplan


Vice Dean, Graduate and Academic Affairs

Dr. Kaplan has focused his research on the psychobiology of anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN). This has included research on the medical complications of AN and BN as well as the neuroendocrinology of these disorders, including neurotransmitter abnormalities in both the serotonergic and dopaminergic systems in BN and AN. Dr. Kaplan has also developed and rigorously evaluated innovative treatments such as day hospitalization and community- based treatments for eating disorders, and examined predictors of outcome in AN and BN. He has also conducted randomized controlled trials evaluating relapse prevention strategies for AN utilizing cognitive behaviour therapy and fluoxetine. More recently Dr. Kaplan has focused on innovative pharmacologic approaches to anorexia nervosa and on the genetics of anorexia and bulimia nervosa. This includes conducting research as part of a large multi-site consortium evaluating the genetics of AN and BN utilizing linkage analyses, candidate gene analyses and genome wide association studies. In collaboration with other investigators at CAMH, Dr. Kaplan’s research has examined genetic factors in weight regulation and caloric intake in obese and non-obese binge eaters.


Alan Aspuru-Guzik



Working on a Contact Tracing App.

Alán Aspuru-Guzik is a professor of Chemistry and Computer Science at the University of Toronto and is also the Canada 150 Research Chair in Theoretical Chemistry and a Canada CIFAR AI Chair at the Vector Institute. He is a CIFAR Lebovic Fellow in the Biologically Inspired Solar Energy program. Alán also holds an Google Industrial Research Chair in Quantum Computing.

Alán began his independent career at Harvard University in 2006 and was a Full Professor at Harvard University from 2013-2018. He received his B.Sc. from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in 1999 and obtained a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 2004, where he was also a postdoctoral fellow from 2005-2006.

Alán conducts research in the interfaces of quantum information, chemistry, machine learning and chemistry. He was a pioneer in the development of algorithms and experimental implementations of quantum computers and quantum simulators dedicated to chemical systems. He has studied the role of quantum coherence in the transfer of excitonic energy in photosynthetic complexes and has accelerated the discovery by calculating organic semiconductors, organic photovoltaic energy, organic batteries and organic light-emitting diodes. He has worked on molecular representations and generative models for the automatic learning of molecular properties. Currently, Alán is interested in automation and "autonomous" chemical laboratories.

Among other recognitions, he received the Google Focused Award for Quantum Computing, the Sloan Research Fellowship, The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar award, and was selected as one of the best innovators under the age of 35 by the MIT Technology Review. He is a member of the American Physical Society and an elected member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and received the Early Career Award in Theoretical Chemistry from the American Chemical Society.


Brenda McPhail, PhD

Director, Privacy, Technology & Surveillance Project

Canadian Civil Liberties Association

Brenda McPhail's recent work includes guiding the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s interventions in key court cases that raise privacy issues, most recently at the Supreme Court of Canada in R v. Marakah and R v. Jones, which focused on privacy rights in sent text messages; research into surveillance of dissent, government information sharing, digital surveillance capabilities and privacy in relation to emergent technologies; and developing resources and presentations to drive public awareness about the importance of privacy as a social good.

She received her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information. In her peer-reviewed, published work and at international conferences, she has explored do-it-yourself approaches to privacy-protective identification, privacy risks of radio frequency identification-enhanced driver’s licences, identity performance in government service interactions, Canadian ePassport development, attitudes toward video surveillance, and privacy issues inherent in connected cars and usage-based insurance.