With the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination programs across the EU and the UK, employers are faced with questions about whether or not they are legally permitted to ask employees about their vaccination status and, if so, how that information may be used.

Employers may wish to inquire about the vaccination status of their employees in order to comply with their general obligation to ensure a safe workplace and minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19.  This raises privacy issues under the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”), because employees’ vaccination status falls within a special category of personal data that concerns the health of individuals (Art. 9(1)).  This category is subject to more stringent data protection measures due to the sensitive and personal nature of data, and can only be processed in very limited circumstances (Art. 9(2)).


Continue Reading COVID-19: Processing of Vaccination Data by Employers in Europe

On February 4, 2021, the House Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce held a hearing entitled, “Safeguarding American Consumers: Fighting Scams and Fraud During the Pandemic.”  The hearing focused on the FTC’s ability to obtain equitable monetary relief under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act – an issue that is currently being considered by the Supreme Court in AMG Capital Management LLC v. Federal Trade Commission.

To gain a better understanding of the deceptive marketing campaigns seeking to exploit the ongoing public health crisis and the challenges the FTC faces in fighting fraud, the Subcommittee invited Bonnie Patten, Executive Director of TruthInAdvertising.org; Jessica Rich, former Bureau of Consumer Protection Director and Distinguished Fellow of the Institute for Technology Law & Policy at Georgetown Law School; William E. Kovacic, former FTC Chairman and Global Competition Professor of Law at George Washington University Law School; and Traci Ponto, Spokane COPS Crime Victim Advocate at Spokane Community Oriented Policy Services.
Continue Reading Hearing on Consumer Protection During the Pandemic Focuses on FTC’s Equitable Monetary Authority

In a new post on the Covington Inside Tech Media Blog, our colleagues discuss how the pandemic is driving connected and automated vehicle (CAV) initiatives at the federal and state levels.  At the federal level, NHTSA and Congress have recently expressed support for utilizing CAV technology to address pandemic-related challenges.  In California, a privacy bill

On May 11, 2020, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) published guidance on how employers should handle data in the event they choose to test their employees for COVID-19.

The guidance provides a clear reminder that employers must comply with both the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) and the Data Protection Act 2018 (“DPA”), and that health data, in particular, attracts additional protections.
Continue Reading ICO Issues COVID-19 Guidance for Employers

On May 6, 2020, the Italian Supervisory Authority (“Garante”) published a list of frequently asked questions (“FAQs”) and answers on data protection and COVID-19 (see here, in English).

The FAQs build on and expand guidance previously issued by the Garante (see our blog post here), and take into account recent measures adopted by Italian authorities, such as the Protocol on Fighting COVID-19 in the Workplace that the Italian government signed with several trade unions on March 14, 2020 (see our blog post here), which was slightly amended on April 24, 2020 (see here).

Among other topics, the FAQs cover: (1) data processing by private employers in the context of the COVID-19 health emergency; and (2) data processing in clinical trials and medical research in the context of the COVID-19 health emergency.
Continue Reading Italian Supervisory Authority Publishes FAQs on Data Protection and COVID-19

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker is working on draft legislation that would regulate the collection and use of health and location information in connection with efforts to track and limit the spread of COVID-19.   Some key highlights of the tentatively titled “COVID-19 Consumer Data Protection Act” include:
Continue Reading Republicans Poised To Introduce COVID-19 Privacy Bill

On April 21, 2020, the European Data Protection Board (“Board”) issued guidelines on the processing of personal data for scientific research related to COVID-19.  The Board indicates that the GDPR takes into account the needs of scientific research and should not be a barrier to conduct such research, while at the same time, it helps ensure respect for the fundamental rights of patients.

Continue Reading European Data Protection Board Issues Guidelines on Processing Personal Data for Scientific Research Related to COVID-19

As we anticipated in a previous blog post, on April 22, 2020, the European Data Protection Board (“EDPB”) issued new guidelines on the use of location data and contact tracing apps in the context of the present COVID-19 pandemic.

The EDPB’s new guidelines complement and build on similar guidance previously issued by the Board itself (see here, here and here), and by the European Commission (see our blog post here).

The EDPB’s close scrutiny over the use of mobile data and apps in the context of the ongoing public health crisis is unsurprising, as many EU Member States have launched—or are in the process of launching—contact tracing apps to fight the spread of the virus, and these initiatives are receiving great attention by data privacy authorities and the general public (see our blog post here).

The guidelines aim to clarify the data protection conditions and principles that should be followed when:

  • using location data to model the spread of the virus to assess the overall effectiveness of confinement measures; and
  • using contact tracing apps, which aim to notify individuals who may have been in close proximity to someone who is infected or confirmed as a carrier of the virus, in order to break the contamination chain as early as possible.

The EDPB stresses that EU data protection rules have been designed to be flexible and, as such, do not stand in the way of an efficient response to the pandemic.  However, it notes that governments and private actors should be mindful of a number of considerations when they use data-driven solutions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.


Continue Reading EDPB Issues New Guidance on the Use of Location Data and Contact Tracing in the Context of the COVID-19 Outbreak

On April 17, 2020, the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) issued an opinion on the recently announced Apple-Google initiative to develop a Bluetooth-based Contact Tracing Framework (“CTF”) to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.  The ICO opinion is generally supportive of the Apple-Google proposal and perceives it to be, at this early phase, aligned with principles of data protection by design and by default.  The ICO also cautions that since apps developed under the CTF could also be used to collect additional data using other techniques beyond those currently planned, developers of such apps must ensure compliance with data protection laws.

Continue Reading UK ICO Issues Opinion on Apple-Google Initiative for a Contact Tracing Framework