Public Health Canada to Collect Online Data to Target the Vaccine Hesitant

Story From: Noé Chartier is an Epoch Times reporter based in Montreal. Twitter: @NChartierET Gettr: @nchartieret

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Public Health Canada to Collect Online Data to Target the Vaccine Hesitant

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has announced a contract with a social media intelligence collection firm based in the U.K. to obtain data on vaccine hesitant individuals in order to be able to deliver targeted messaging to break through their hesitancy, contract details indicate.

“In preparation for increased vaccination education, promotion, and outreach, The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is requiring the services of a consultant to analyze the vaccine related conversations on social media and PHAC social media initiative and campaign performance,” says the tender notice description posted online on Dec. 22.

The notice says the contract will be awarded to U.K.-based Pulsar Platform if no other supplier submits a bid meeting the requirements before the closing date. The estimated value of the contract is $339,000.

Pulsar describes itself as an “audience intelligence company” using artificial intelligence and “smart human minds” to comb through conversational and behavioural data on social media.

The notice says the consultant will need to analyze Twitter and other online sites and platforms spanning three years of historical data.

PHAC is seeking to obtain information on individuals who are participating in and influencing online conversations about vaccination.

It wants reports produced by the consultant to “provide PHAC an actionable understanding of the vaccine conversation landscape online and the conversation participants, while determining a conversation baseline,” according to the Statement of Work.

Once this data is obtained, PHAC will run a tailored messaging campaign, which it says will seek to target “communities of interest,” such as “indigenous peoples and millennial males,” states the Advance Contract Award Notice.

The study is to be rerun within a three to four month period to “monitor shifts in attitudes and confidence levels,” says the notice.

‘Keyword-Based’
PHAC lays out how the consultant must conduct its work, including the establishment of a “keyword-based social listening tracker to capture social media conversations around vaccinations in Canada.”

Data must also be parsed along conversation themes such as “experiences with long Covid, previous vaccine side effects, engaging with mis/disinformation, shift in perceived risk of infection.”

PHAC also seeks to obtain a breakdown of reasons for vaccine hesitancy for different regions and cities to allow more targeted messaging.

Along with identifying regions, cities, and subgroups such as First Nations communities, PHAC is also requesting segmentations of key audiences to include “demographics, interests, affinities, online behaviours, and the leading topics of vaccine hesitancy conversation, per each sub-community.”

The Statement of Work provides an example of what the consultant should do once a sub-community has been identified.

It says that once a community of “Toronto University Students that indicate low confidence in vaccinations” has been identified, then some factors should be investigated.

These include their reasons for being hesitant and the topics of their conversations, the media they consume and the content they share, and the tone they use when discussing their vaccination status.

The Epoch Times contacted PHAC to find out if previous such programs have been implemented and to learn more about how the data from private individuals will be protected, exploited, and if it will be shared with other departments.

PHAC was also asked whether it consulted the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) on the program. A response was not obtained before publication time.

The OPC was also contacted to know whether it was aware of PHAC’s social media collection program, but a response was not received immediately.

Cellphone Tracking
PHAC has been embroiled in a data collection-related controversy in recent months when it was revealed it was analyzing the anonymized movement of millions of Canadians through the tracking of their cellphones, unbeknownst to them.

PHAC had been obtaining the data from carrier Telus and other cellphone tracking companies, but in December 2021 it sought a contractor to directly access data from cellphone towers to conduct its analysis.

The data has been used to measure the compliance of Canadians while provinces implemented COVID-19 lockdowns.

When this became known, MPs started examining the issue and the Commons ethics committee told the government last spring that Canadians should be allowed to opt out of the data collection program.

The OPC also said it was investigating the matter, but the results have yet to be announced.

PHAC and the OPC have been asked about the status of the contract and the investigation.

 

Story From: Noé Chartier is an Epoch Times reporter based in Montreal. Twitter: @NChartierET Gettr: @nchartieret

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