On 20 March 2020, the European Data Protection Board (“EDPB”) released a statement on the protection of personal data in connection with measures that public authorities and business organizations (including employers) are taking to address the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This statement is an extension of the statement released by the EDPB chair on 16 March 2020, (which can be accessed here). In its latest statement, the EDPB emphasises that EU data protection law (in particular, the EU General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”)) does not stand in the way of measures adopted to fight against COVID-19 – if these measures are necessary, proportionate and consistent with safeguards required under EU Member State laws. The EDPB statement also provides useful guidance for organisations to consider when adopting measures to lawfully process personal data during this time.
Overall, while EDPB statement may provide some reassurance to organizations with respect to COVID-19 measures, organizations will be advised to consider guidance issued by specific EU Member State data protection authorities as well. In particular, specific EU Member State data protection authorities have begun issuing COVID-19 guidance that is, at least in certain respects divergent: while certain data protection authorities are adopting a more restrictive approach (for example, the French CNIL), others are more permissible (for example, the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office).
The COVID-19 crisis has created significant cybersecurity risks for organizations across the world, particularly arising from remote working, scams and phishing attacks, and weakened information governance controls. These risks warrant attention by legal counsel and information security officers in light of potentially significant adverse legal, financial and reputational consequences that could arise – all while the organization is dealing with effects of a global pandemic.
In addition to identifying the cybersecurity risks, we also consider key measures that organizations can consider adopting to reduce such risks, including measures recommended by the UK’s National Cybersecurity Centre (NCSC), EU’s Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. The speed at which the COVID-19 crisis has evolved has meant that many organizations have not been able to deploy effective risk-reducing measures in a timely manner.
Social distancing imperatives and the resulting surge in remote work polices have led to increased demand for the use of electronic signatures in commercial transactions. Although the method of execution is just one factor to consider when determining the validity and enforceability of a contract, electronic signatures — when appropriately deployed — can provide a convenient replacement for manual wet-ink signatures in many transactions. The U.S. Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-SIGN), as well as the widespread adoption at the state level of the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) or comparable electronic signature laws, provide that electronic signatures and electronic records cannot be denied legal effect, validity or enforceability solely because they exist in electronic form. As workforces suddenly shift to remote operations with siloed employees lacking access to typical office services, yet still facing the same business needs and time demands, companies are reevaluating their electronic signature and records policies and technologies.
This week the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) took action to waive penalties and refrain from enforcing certain federal health information privacy restrictions under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in response to COVID-19.
In light of the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the ICO has today issued guidance on “Data protection and coronavirus: what you need to know” for data controllers. The ICO has also published advice for healthcare practitioners. Guidance has also been issued by many other Data Protection Authorities in other European countries. (more…)
This post seeks to help parties navigate issues arising from COVID-19 risks from an employment and privacy law perspective in both the United States and Europe.
Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) presents significant issues for employers to navigate and significant consequences for employees across industries as COVID-19 reduces consumer spending, disrupts supply chains and presents challenges for managing workforces globally. Employers should be aware of their responsibilities and proactively put in place action plans to address this growing problem. Designing these plans, and addressing requested or mandated leaves and other restrictions on employee work, presents myriad employment law issues that may vary by jurisdiction. Employers are also likely to confront privacy questions as they seek information on employees’ and others’ health and travel across jurisdictions. In developing a plan, employers will want to consider these issues in a holistic and coordinated manner.