COVID-19 and Data Protection
While it is crucial to make clear that data protection can in no way be an obstacle to save human lives, it is equally crucial to reaffirm that the exercise of human rights, and notably the rights to privacy and to data protection are still applicable. Data protection principles always allow for balancing the interests at stake. Convention 108+ sets forth high standards for the protection of personal data which are compatible and reconcilable with other fundamental rights and relevant public interests.
The principles enshrined in several international and national instruments cannot be suspended but only restricted in a lawful manner, and so for a defined limited duration.
“Being aware of the unprecedented challenge we are facing, it is crucial to resist the temptation of uncritically suspending the protection of fundamental rights without ensuring a careful assessment of the proportionality and efficiency of the measures to be taken.
Ensuring respect of the rule of law, human rights and democracy is vital to protect the population without putting societies at greater risk on the longer term.”
“Several states in Europe and in the world have imposed a state of emergency to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. This situation leads to measures that restrict our human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to data protection. These restrictive measures are understandable and justified. However, they should be of a legitimate and exceptional nature and be limited in time. If they involve personal data processing, the basic principles of Convention 108 must be respected, and the rights of data subjects guaranteed.”
- 2020 marks a turning point.
- Challenges faced worldwide by our societies, governments and health care systems have provided a unique opportunity to reaffirm our founding values of democracy, rule of law and human rights.
- Confronted with the Covid-19 health crisis, governments have been seeking to protect their populations and responding effectively to urgent and vital needs. Emergency measures have been adopted that have affected the enjoyment of the rights to privacy and data protection. To avoid undermining the bedrock of our societies, such necessary exceptional measures have to respect the general principles of law, remain proportional to the threat they address and be limited in time.