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24 July 2020
Like icebergs, data privacy issues have a habit of lying in wait. If encountered, the full extent of the problem may not be known until it is too late.
Data privacy has been high on the 2020 agenda. Its relevance in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic is, undoubtedly, the bulky portion of the iceberg that skulks beneath troubled socioeconomic waters.
With life having changed dramatically, it is worth reflecting on how data issues have been brought to the fore as part of the response to COVID-19.
Almost overnight, professional and personal worlds were consolidated into a single, confined space. For many, these challenging environments had, until that point, existed in separate places and times. This unprecedented upheaval brought with it a myriad of data privacy concerns. Many businesses have spent inordinate sums of money over a number of years devising systems and environments to ensure data protection compliance and mitigate the risks of personal data breaches. The thought of confidential client papers piling high on dining room tables, cohabitees who work for different organisations talking across each other while on client calls and 'domestic' attitudes to locking away documents and securing properties is enough to bring any company's head of risk out in a cold sweat.
Away from the professional context, the pandemic is testing the ability of high-profile data controllers, such as the Jersey government and connected institutions, to comply with data privacy principles and clearly and effectively communicate the approach that they are taking. It is also testing Jersey citizens' ability to use the instructions or tools available to them to make informed and educated decisions on matters that may affect their privacy.
In recent years, the data protection narrative has been dominated by the rising rights of living persons and the obligations on those that use their information to do so responsibly. That remains as true today as it did when Jersey upgraded its data laws in 2018. However, some might argue that the extent to which the pandemic has put the responsibility into the hands of living persons (individually and collectively) to help Jersey chart a course through the crisis has caused the narrative to develop. Whether it is a tracking app, government survey or medical procedure, data subjects now find themselves in the spotlight. The ability and willingness of people to separate truth from disinformation could, for example, determine whether potentially lawful strategies, with ambitions to accelerate Jersey's journey back from the current restrictions, are dismissed as an invasion of essential liberties or, conversely, whether personal details are disclosed by citizens to third parties unnecessarily or used inappropriately.
In addition to good hygiene and good decision making as the pandemic unfolds, the importance of good information, as well as good information practices and sensible responses to them, should not be overlooked.
For further information on this topic please contact Will Austin-Vautier at Ogier by telephone (+44 1481 721 672) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Ogier website can be accessed at www.ogier.com.
An earlier version of this article was published in Connect Jersey magazine.
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