Protecting privacy in a pandemic

Coronavirus Daily
Bloomberg

Here's the latest news:

Protecting privacy in a pandemic

With lockdowns lifting, businesses are scrambling to find solutions that allow them to reopen their factories, banks, offices and other workplaces while preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Many are turning to technology—from fever-detecting thermal cameras and buzzing social-distancing bracelets to corporate contact-tracing apps—to screen employees or track the virus. About 23% of companies surveyed globally are considering workplace tracking or contact tracing to transition back to on-site work, according to a recent study by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

But as the systems access sensitive personal data like health, location or information about who employees interact with, it opens up a whole set of other potential problems for employers, especially in Europe.

Office floors have been devoid of staff since the U.K. lockdown started.

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

In the European Union, data protection violations could lead to fines of as much as 4% of a company's annual sales under the bloc's privacy rules. Meanwhile, breaches of employment laws could bring penalties or, in rare cases, jail time for executives, if they're found to have insufficiently protected workers' safety.

Manufacturers of the systems acknowledge Covid-screening technology isn't foolproof but say the devices can at least help mitigate the risk of infection. Meanwhile, privacy advocates warn about the deployment of tech like fever-detection cameras, which could force employees who might have a relatively higher body temperature or fever due to a non-infectious disease to divulge it to their employers against their will.

Those legal risks are compounded by a race against time, lawyers say, with some employers rapidly deploying solutions to reopen workplaces and worrying about the consequences later. A lack of clear guidance by the EU and its regulators about what's acceptable is also making the decisions by the companies that much more difficult.

One Frankfurt-based employment lawyer says it best: "It's a bit like the Wild West."—Natalia Drozdiak

Listen up 

Latest Podcast: Why New York Got Hit So Hard

At least 21,000 New Yorkers are dead from Covid-19, more than in Italy's hard-hit Lombardy region. Drew Armstrong reviews statements of experts, officials, and politicians to better understand the root causes.

 

What you should read

Sweden's Virus Strategist Admits Mistakes
Approach has drawn praise and indignation from around the globe.
Singapore's Long Lockdown Upsets Election
Polls to be held by early next year amid economic, jobs woes.
Hong Kong Is Being Tested Like Never Before
Amid pandemic distractions, Xi has ratcheted up pressure. 
London Luxury House Prices Plunge
Prime properties in central city now down 5% over past year.
Trump's WHO Exit Threatens Global Health
No developed nation has ever withdrawn.

Know someone else who would like this newsletter?  Have them sign up here.

Have any questions, concerns, or news tips on Covid-19 news? Get in touch or help us cover the story.

Like this newsletter? Subscribe for unlimited access to trusted, data-based journalism in 120 countries around the world and gain expert analysis from exclusive daily newsletters, The Bloomberg Open and The Bloomberg Close.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How to Dance Across Medium with Fantastic Writers

Chicken vs. cow

Money Stuff: It’s Not All Bad for Banks