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How do I ensure my use of video conferencing calls complies with GDPR?

With the loss of face-to-face meetings in the current situation, video conferencing has taken centre stage. But how do you do that in a compliant way? Here are some of the main high-level data protection issues to consider when selecting and implementing a new third party provider’s video conferencing system.

  1. Make sure you do your due diligence on the security measures offered by the provider. Clearly you can’t visit them, so look at the information offered publicly by the provider and read good quality, reliable, third party sources and ask the provider questions directly. Also ask any other organisations you know that use the provider. Document all this.
  2. If personal information is being sent outside of the UK/European Economic Area, make sure that transfer complies with GDPR. If it’s a US provider, is it registered in the EU-US Privacy Shield list or does it offer a model clause contract (you’re likely to need the 2010 version)? Or is the service provided from a country whose data protection laws offer equivalent protection to those in Europe? Look at the support service as well as the hosting. Document this.
  3. Make sure you put a compliant processor agreement in place. The provider should offer one as part of the contract terms. Check it meets GDPR requirements.
  4. You’re likely to need to update your privacy notice, particularly if you’re going to record calls. Provide participants with a short message and link to the privacy notice in the meeting invite and on any registration page.
  5. Create or update other GDPR-mandated documentation – for example, depending on your use, you may need a legitimate interests assessment and to update your record of processing.
  6. Finally, configure and use the system in a secure and compliant way. Look at the settings/options carefully and think through the security and compliance implications of each. That could include deciding who in the meeting can share their screen; whether or not you use passwords for participants; whether or not to record, and if you’re going to record, where to store the recording. Document your decisions and the reasons for them.

The ICO has said it understands that resources, whether they are finances or people, might be diverted away from usual compliance work during the pandemic. However the last thing you need at the moment is to create a bigger problem than the one you are trying to solve. So do the best you can, ask for help from one of our specialists if you need it, and keep the whole thing under review.

On 16 April 2020, Ian Hulme, the ICO’s Director of Assurance, posted a blog for business owners, employers and managers about how to safely roll out the latest video conferencing technology.

On 21 April 2020, the NCSC published security guidance for organisations on choosing, configuring and deploying video conferencing services.

Related FAQs

Can I wait until April to carry out assessments?

We don’t recommend this. Status determination statements must be issued before 6 April 2021 for current engagements and the appropriate deductions are to be made on payments for services carried out on or after 6 April 2021.

What about employees who say they cannot return to work due to childcare issues?

Employers will need to be flexible with employees who are unable to return to work at present due to childcare difficulties. While schools have reopened, a period of isolation may result in employees having to keep children off school/nursery and therefore have childcare issues. Some employees will be able to manage this with their partner and extended family, whereas others will not. Where an employee simply cannot make any other arrangements to care for their children in the short term then they will be unable to return to work until that situation changes. Any dismissals on the basis that someone is unable to return to work as a result of lack of childcare are likely to be unfair, at least in the short term where such employees may well be able to demonstrate that they had no options available to them.

My business involves providing services to consumers. What are my legal obligations in relation to deposits paid by consumers for services that I have been unable to perform due to government restrictions?

Many businesses that supply directly to consumers have been concerned to understand their legal position in relation to services that have been cancelled, or that they have been unable to perform, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and in particular how to deal with deposits paid by consumers for such services. With some degree of restriction on the hospitality and tourism sectors likely to remain in place for some time, such questions will remain important for the foreseeable future.

What are the data protection implications of holding Covid-19 health data?

The ICO is providing new guidance to organisations regarding data protection and coronavirus, which can be accessed here: https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/data-protection-and-coronavirus/

Information about the Covid-19 health status of individuals is special category data under the GDPR. This means it is high risk which has implications for how you use it, store it and keep it secure.

You will already hold health data about your employees as this is necessary to provide a safe, accessible place to work and to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace. You now need to make sure that the information you gather about your employees, visitors to your sites, customers and suppliers about Covid-19 is processed in accordance with data protection laws.

What should I do if the contractor is in suspected financial difficulty?

In the event that the contractor is displaying one or more of the above signs, then it is worth considering the following actions to protect the employer’s position as far as possible:

  • Closely monitor the financial and on-site performance of the contractor in order to assess the likelihood and timing of potential insolvency
  • Ensure all bonds, guarantees and collateral warranties have been obtained under the building contract, and if not take steps to obtain them immediately
  • Consider the terms of any guarantees to ensure that the guarantor’s obligations are not inadvertently discharged
  • Bonds may require adjudication to have been commenced (or even completed) prior to insolvency so as not to be stayed pursuant to insolvency laws
  • Carry out an audit of the on-site plant, equipment and materials, and evidence this (for example with photographs and written records)
  • Ensure that copies of all relevant documentation have been obtained, for example drawings, specifications and anything required to comply with CDM requirements. If not, take steps to obtain these
  • Review the payment position under the building contract, including whether any over payments have been made to the contractor which should be reclaimed, what retention is held or has been released, whether any payment notices may be necessary, and whether there are rights of set-off which should be exercised
  • Check whether the involvement of any third party is required, for example funders, landlords, tenants or purchasers who may have rights in relation to the building contract and how it is administered
  • Review the terms of the building contract relating to contractor insolvency – hopefully the parties will be fully aware of the building contract terms and have been administering it correctly to date, but if it has been hiding in a draw then now would be a good time to dust it off and ensure familiarity with the relevant provisions!

In general. there is often a stick or twist decision.  If the employer chooses to financially support the contractor (for example by agreeing different payment arrangements), this may help to keep the contractor solvent and more likely to complete the project, but it also exposes the employer to greater risk if the approach is not successful.  Conversely, withholding payments  from the contractor may make insolvency a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The precise advantages and disadvantages of the approach will be dependent on the specific circumstances of each case.