Data Protection and COVID-19

COVID-19 pandemic distorted the way how we used to live and work, which we nowadays call “normal”, however there is a high chance that we will never get back to “normal” again. Our society changed rapidly and radically within passed weeks and it happened because, among other factors, we gave out too much personal data. Various software was developed to connect with people on distance, however we did not think much about the privacy of such video and audio calls before one of the most popular software in the market – ZOOM- has experienced its privacy issues.

We never thought that banks would be able to trace us where we shop and in which cities we spend our money. We never thought that telecom companies would ever publish data when we wake up, go to bed and spend time talking and it was certainly unthinkable that such data might be shared with governments. We never thought that we would be sharing very personal information with our employers, but in times of a chaos, we don`t see any problem with that.

Currently in several countries around the world fundamental human rights are being compromised. For instance: freedom of movement, freedom of privacy, freedom of thought, right to public assembly, workers` rights and etc. Under the cover of “state emergency” or “self-quarantine”, different ruling regimes around the world are offering almost unsolvable dilemma: stay safe but give away your freedoms, or risk your life. While the logic of such approach is clear, the sense of “lost privacy” and infringed personal life will remain even after the Pandemic.

In the territory of the European Union, businesses made use of the article 9(2)(i) of the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) and with the reasoning of public interest could gain enough information from clients, customers and even employees. Would the perspective responsible officer be monitoring that this data does not leak out to the public? Are these businesses technologically equipped enough to maintain such data? While you are answering these rhetorical questions, maybe you could also have a look at the data that Google Maps published on movement of its users in certain countries to prove that people started spending more time in one location.

In some cases governments do their best to protect the well being of citizens and for that reasons they need to have enough data to know in which areas of the country/city people violate health orders. Despite the existence of the current legislation on a national or supranational level, we shall acknowledge that it is not enough and to guarantee a protection of privacy of citizens in this digital age.

The ongoing pandemic has revealed the fact that software and digital services that we use are not secure enough and in times of emergency such breach can be as dangerous as an actual invasion of a country. In the meantime, we need to get used to with the idea that we are living in the era when our privacy can easily be invaded and alas there is no sufficient legal protection on the supranational level.

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