Date: 30/04/2020

Personal data protection in the time of Covid-19

Over 100 members of the AmCham community attended a panel on how to keep personal data safe in the age of coronavirus.

The guest speakers, Milan Marinović, Commissioner for Freedom of Information and Personal Data Protection, Zlatko Petrović, Deputy General Secretary at the Commissioner’s Office, and Đorđe Krivokapić, founder of the SHARE Foundation, agreed that protecting personal data was a highly topical issue in the time of Covid-19, especially as the field was only recently regulated in both Serbia and in EU. The speakers shared useful information about how the emergency situation affected personal data protection and processing.

The discussion began with an explanation of the general guidelines that employers must follow when collecting and processing personal data. Since health records can be processed only under circumstances strictly defined in the Personal Data Protection Law, the panel addressed the issue of whether and to what extent employers were able to collect and process medical records to facilitate prevention of and protection from illnesses, and which regulations allowed them to do so. The joint conclusion was that employers could process both health records and other staff information, but had to strictly follow the legal principles of purpose limitation and data minimisation, as well as comply with any additional safeguards brought in by the government.

The panellists noted growing concern with opportunities for the abuse of new mass surveillance technologies introduced for public health purposes and the data collected using them. Another cause of unease was that societies could become used to increased scrutiny and more intrusive measures and could accept them as the ‘new normal’ once the pandemic has abated. The participants agreed that any mass surveillance would have to comply with European and Serbian frameworks and could be introduced only after ex ante impact assessment, public consultation, and broad-based social consensus-building.

Also discussed were partial lifting of cross-border movement restrictions based on ‘immunity passports’ and mass testing at border crossings, together with likely options for business travel arrangements and mobility in general.

With the use of online communication apps (such as Teams, WebEx, and Zoom) becoming somewhat of a necessity in these extraordinary circumstances, the participants were also able to find out more about user privacy options available in each of these tools and see a comparison of their security features

The event was moderated by Miloš Stojković, member of AmCham’s Digital Economy Committee.