Monthly Archives: April 2020

Data protection in the time of coronavirus

Various news outlets are reporting that the UK government is considering using mobile device users’ location data as a means to monitor the spread of coronavirus and to track their endeavours at social distancing.Polling suggests that the wider population is generally supportive of implementing extraordinary measures to mitigate the COVID-19 crisis. However, the possibility of increased processing of personal data at a testing time when individuals’ freedoms have already been curtailed as part of the response to pandemic does raise privacy concerns. The civil liberties group, Big Brother Watch, has already warned that the Coronavirus Act 2020, which came into force on 25 March, risks weakening safeguards on mass surveillance powers.It has been suggested that individuals’ health data could be subject to large-scale processing so that nearby persons that those individuals pass (for example, on a public street when taking permitted exercise) are warned that they have been in the proximity of someone suspected to have coronavirus (an app that performed a similar operation was used in South Korea, where the infection rate has fallen dramatically). This would inevitably require the processing of ‘special category’ data, which is subject to extra protections under the GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018.In a recent tweet linked to below, Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health, stated that ‘GDPR does not inhibit use of data for coronavirus response’. It is likely Hancock is thinking of Articles 6(d) and 6(e) and Articles 9(2)(c), 9(2)(g), and 9(2)(i), which do allow for processing of such special category data where this is in the public interest, for public health reasons, and/or for protecting individuals’ ‘vital interests’. If the UK government were to rely on these grounds for such large-scale processing, then users’ consent would not be needed for data to be processed in this way.However, implementing such processing is not without risk: if rolled out too quickly, it would be all too easy for such wide-scale processing of special category data to contravene core principles of the GDPR, such as ensuring data is not kept for longer than it should and being transparent about the way it is processed. Another key tenet of the legislation is that personal data must be kept up to date, and it is not difficult to imagine how this might be a challenge to do for large swathes of the country’s population with regard to each person’s health status. Individuals may not be able to object to this processing if, as is likely, it can be demonstrated that there are legitimate grounds for the processing that override individual rights and freedoms. Furthermore, while the initial use of the data might be for the purposes of protecting individuals’ vital interests, there is a risk that such data might then be subjected to further use and processing for other purposes.If data can be anonymised before it is processed in the ways discussed, this might be a solution, since truly anonymised personal data falls outside of the GDPR’s scope. The European Data Protection Board has recommended that, in the first instance, public authorities should endeavour to process location data in an anonymous way. However, a recent news report has mentioned the possibility of reversing the anonymisation of such data in order to identify specific virus-carrying individuals. This would be a significant concern for the privacy of those individuals.Notwithstanding the above, a careful balance will need to be maintained between individual rights and the needs of public protection during this pandemic. It is important to remember that the GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018 still apply to UK public authorities and to private organisations, and even during this public health crisis, any project involving the processing of personal data is expected to comply with this legislation.

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Coronavirus: Police Powers and employment implications

The police now have the power to give any individual who refuses to follow the government guidance an on-the-spot fine of £60, which is reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days. If an individual persistently breaches the guidance, then …

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Coronavirus & BUSINESS INTERRUPTION INSURANCE: can other claims be made when cover is rejected?

Business owners who thought that they had cover for the business interruption caused by COVID-19 are finding in many cases that the cover is not what they expected and their claims are being rejected by their insurer.  You may wish …

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Bank Fraud: Safeguards and Solutions (Part one)

Fraudsters are targeting both businesses and individuals with both the usual scams we have been aware of for a while and with new COVID-19-related schemes. It is, therefore, more important than ever to be vigilant. But we might also ask …

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Real estate businesses facing LIBOR crunch, finds Collyer Bristow research

Real estate businesses are facing a LIBOR crunch, with over half of property businesses with borrowing yet to speak to lenders about alternative interest rate benchmarks, finds research commissioned by Collyer Bristow. Read the full white paper report, “Getting to …

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Coronavirus: Court confirms administrators may adopt contracts of furloughed employees

Background Under the Scheme, furloughed employees, whose services cannot be used due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, will not be permitted to work for their employer during the period of furlough but the employer will be able to apply for …

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Immigration – New Guidance on The Points-Based System

Despite an overhaul of the UK’s immigration policy being a cornerstone of Boris’ Brexit strategy, details on a new system have so far been few and far between. However, the government has now released a new guidance note (9 April …

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Coronavirus: Will the institution of marriage survive?

The average age at which heterosexual couples marry has reached 35.7 years for women and 38 years for men, according to the latest official figures. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recorded further declines in the number of couple’s opting …

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Coronavirus: How is the payments sector reacting to the fall-out from Covid-19?

Payments for goods and services which are made by credit or debit card are generally processed by one or more financial intermediaries prior to the funds being settled in a merchant’s bank account.   These intermediaries, sometimes known as payment processors, …

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Banks’ refusal to reimburse victims of fraud

In May 2019, many of the UK’s largest banks and building societies signed up to a voluntary code requiring them to reimburse customers who are victims of fraud except where the customers have been grossly negligent.However, according to the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR), it now appears that many of the banks are taking a very restrictive approach to their obligation to reimburse defrauded customers. From the PSR’s data, it appears that the most generous bank has provided full refunds to 6% of its defrauded customers and partial refunds to 93% of them (rejecting 1% of claims). Whereas the least generous bank has only fully refunded 1% of its customers and given a partial refund to 3% of them, meaning that it has rejected 96% of the claims.This is disappointing news at a time when authorised push payment fraud is on the rise. It also flies in the face of the obligation which the banks themselves signed up to last year. As a result, the PSR is calling for reform of the code. This call for reform also comes on the heels of comments made by the Treasury Committee in November 2019 expressing their view that the code should be made compulsory for all banks and should have retrospective effect back to 2016 meaning that customers could claim a refund for frauds which were carried out up to four years ago.

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