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Will privacy be one of the victims of Covid-19?

Publicado el 13/7/2020

During the pandemic, a false dichotomy has arisen between the public interest in the health field and the right to the protection of personal data

The Covid-19 outbreak has become a global pandemic and each country is implementing a set of measures to stop its transmission and reduce mortality, especially when using technological tools, intensive use of special categories of data. personal (health) that have a strong impact on the private sphere of citizens, such as the geolocation of mobile devices, computer applications to track contacts or thermal cameras for mass reading of temperature or immunity certificates.
Some sectors have pointed to the fundamental right to data protection as an obstacle that prevents the adoption of some adequate control measures by the authorities, especially health, limiting their effectiveness to safeguard people in the fight against pandemic, considering that the protection of the vital interests of citizens is being weakened due to a rigorous application of current regulations on privacy, so that in order to save lives it would be essential to renounce part of our privacy.
However, these types of approaches are based on an erroneous and outdated method that consists of considering the health emergency situation caused by Covid-19 as a zero-sum game, in which the gain or loss in the fight against the pandemic is balances exactly with the gains or losses of the fundamental right to the protection of personal data, incorporating a false dichotomy between the public interest in the field of public health and compliance with legal guarantees in the field of privacy of the citizens in this emergency situation.
In this regard, the Spanish Data Protection Agency has produced numerous guides and recommendations that have helped organizations understand two important issues: first, that the personal data protection regulations apply in their entirety to the current situation , since there is no reason whatsoever to determine the suspension of fundamental rights, nor has said measure been adopted. Second, that the General Data Protection Regulation (RGPD) contains the necessary rules to legitimately allow processing of personal data in situations where there is a general health emergency. In view of the foregoing, it will be essential that private entities and the public sector ensure that any processing of personal data in this health emergency situation is always carried out in the public interest or to protect the vital interests of the interested party or other natural persons, including the possible compliance by companies with the labor regulations and occupational risk prevention of their personnel, without it being essential in these cases to obtain the consent of those affected.
Taking this into account, the definition and implementation of any legal and organizational measure that aims to control the Covid-19 epidemic and its spread must be based on scientific criteria and required, prior to the start of personal information processing. of those affected and also periodically, the effective application of data protection principles and, specifically, the processing of personal information that is strictly necessary in relation to the amount of data processed, the extension of the treatment, the periods conservation and accessibility to data.
The crisis caused by Covid-19 is testing the resistance of our society and represents a real threat, both to our economy and to our way of life, but only in times of crisis can we really measure the commitment to our values ​​and, by this For this reason, we have the responsibility to minimize the impact on our fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to the protection of personal data, that lead to situations of loss of freedom, discrimination or other damage to the personal situation of citizens.

Finally, it should be remembered that May 25 marked two years since the application of the RGPD, which has become a worldwide reference framework in terms of privacy, the implementation of which was a huge effort for many entities in the public and private sectors. so that this crisis situation derived from Covid-19, where we have verified the high value that personal information acquires in the fight against the pandemic, represents an opportunity, instead of a problem, to reaffirm compliance with the regulations of protection of personal data as an essential requirement to guarantee the trust of citizens and promote the development of the new digital era.

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