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Coronavirus - A New Landscape for Data Protection

As we continue to adapt our everyday to learn to live and work during the Coronavirus lockdown, new implications for both individuals and business are being raised on a daily basis.

Whilst these unprecedented circumstances call for understanding and appreciation that things might need to be done differently to maintain service provision or give vital information to those that need it – it’s also the case that in some situations standards of protection are not only still required to be maintained, but continue to be legally binding. One of these areas is data protection.

The Information Commissioners Office (ICO), who independently uphold information rights, have provided guidance on some of the issues that are being raised by the Coronavirus outbreak, and have also given some clarity about how they intend to regulate during this time. This gives their intention to continue to uphold the law, but in a ‘flexible’, ‘pragmatic’ and ’empathetic’ manner, with an understanding of the exceptional circumstances many organisations find themselves in.

Examples of some of the challenges raised are primarily down to changes in the working practices organisations are being forced to employ just to continue their operations during lockdown. With many companies now working with reduced staff due to furloughing, as well as home-working, the way personal data is shared and stored is temporarily changing.

Other areas for debate have included access to medical information and the ability for businesses to inform colleagues of cases of COVID-19 within the workplace – as well as the Government using personal contact information to spread their Coronavirus guidelines across the country via letters and text messages, navigating the normal marketing preference restrictions that might be in place.

The ICO has also given guidance regarding reports that Google are tracking individual’s movements during this time to see where people are travelling during the lockdown. The technology is usually employed to help provide real-time information about when businesses and transport networks are at their busiest, to help inform customers and divert commuters to avoid traffic. Google has been swift to reassure that personal privacy will be maintained and that it could have real benefits for those governing the country.

What is certain is that there are a number of unprecedented challenges due to the current operating environment, some of which could result in changes to how we work and give our data in the future long after restrictions are eased. However, whatever the circumstances it still remains important to give thought to how data is being protected.

Here at Fosters our team of Business and Commercial Lawyers have a wealth of experience and knowledge to help assist companies in relation to any legal query or matter you may have at this time. Please call us on 01603 620508 to speak with a member of the team.

This article was produced on the 22nd April 2020 by our Business & Commercial team for information purposes only and should not be construed or relied upon as specific legal advice.