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 May 19, 2021, the Italian Supervisory Authority (“Garante”) fined a physician €5,000 for publishing a patient’s medical records without obtaining that patient’s specific consent to do so.  As background, the physician downloaded medical records about a patient she treated at a local hospital from the hospital’s online archive system, including images taken during surgery.  The physician used these records for a presentation at a medical conference, and also included them as documentation supporting a scientific research paper she submitted for a competition hosted by a surgeons’ association.  The physician’s paper was ultimately selected as the winner of that competition, resulting in the publication of her work on the association’s website.
Continue Reading Italian Supervisory Authority Fines Physician for Secondary Use of Patient Data Without Specific Consent

In February 2021, the European Commission (“Commission”) released a report on European Union (“EU”) Member States’ laws governing the processing of health data.  The report discusses three general types of health data uses:

  • primary use for health care services;
  • secondary use for public health purposes; and
  • secondary use for scientific research purposes.

For each of these general purposes, the report assesses real-world use cases.  For example, for health care services, the report considers e-health applications, among others.  For public health purposes, the report considers pharmacovigilance and product approvals.  The section on scientific research purposes, meanwhile, considers issues such as research by public bodies, sharing of data with third-party researchers, and the use of genetic data.

Continue Reading European Commission Publishes Report on EU Member States’ Rules in Relation to Health Data

On February 2, 2021, the European Data Protection Board (“Board”) responded to questions submitted by the European Commission (“Commission”) on the application of the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) to health research.  The Board also announced that it is currently working on guidelines on the processing of personal data for scientific research purposes, which it aims to publish in the course of 2021.

Continue Reading European Data Protection Board Answers Commission’s Questions on Health Research

On March 28, 2020, the “Federal Act for the Protection of the Population against an Epidemic of National Significance” (Bevölkerungsschutzgesetz) went into effect.  The law forms part of an emergency legislative package introduced by the German government in response to COVID-19.

The law amends the Social Code V (SGB V)

Over the past several days, Germany Supervisory Authorities and health authorities have issued statements and guidance about the handling of personal data in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  In this blog, we consider some these statements in greater detail, as well as their implications for employers and employees.

Continue Reading German Authorities Issue Guidance Related to Coronavirus

On March 28, 2019, the Council of Europe* issued a new Recommendation on the protection of health-related data.  The Recommendation calls on all Council of Europe member states to take steps to ensure that the principles for processing health-related data (in both the public and private sector) set out in the Appendix of the Recommendation

In early November, the Dutch Supervisory Authority released an injunction imposed against the public insurance body Uitvoeringsinstituut Werkgeversverzekering (“UWV”) last July.

The UWV allows employers to submit data about their employees for social security purposes.  The data includes dates of employee absences due to general illness (and when an employee is pregnant or gave birth,