A message from the Information Commissioner – Data Protection and Coronavirus

26 March 2020 – Information Commissioner’s Office

I began last month’s newsletter talking about how much I was looking forward to seeing so many of you at our Data Protection Practitioners Conference in Manchester. The world feels very different a few weeks later.

Preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus is now the priority for us all, and this month’s newsletter looks at where this work interacts with data protection.

The top line here is a recognition of the importance of organisations being able to work together to respond to this pandemic. Data protection law will not stop this happening.

We are clear too that we are supportive of innovative approaches of personal data for public benefit. Sound understanding of the principles of data protection can encourage innovation, rather than stand in its way. We know this is a fast moving picture for many data protection officers, and so we have compiled a list of the most frequently asked coronavirus questions our helpline has been receiving, details of which can be found here.

We have also recognised the need for public bodies and health practitioners to communicate directly with people when dealing with this type of health emergency. It’s important my office remains a reasonable and pragmatic regulator, and we will not operate in isolation from matters of serious public concern.

This approach extends too to our role regulating the Freedom of Information Act, and details of our measured approach to public authorities’ response times is set out below.

My office continues to offer support to those working in information rights across all types of organisations. We know this is a difficult time for many people, and that working from home can bring practical challenges. Our helpline remains open, and our website continues to be a valuable resource of information on topics like cyber security for remote working, data protection impact assessments and handling subject access requests.

Stay safe, and I hope to see you in the near future.

Elizabeth Denham CBE
UK Information Commissioner

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