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Commercial and Contracts – Data Protection

At Ward Hadaway we want to play our part by helping UK businesses, organisations and people successfully navigate the current disrupted environment and get us all back to business. To do that we have developed a series of FAQs where we try to provide clear answers to commonly asked questions.

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.

What are the data protection implications of homeworking?

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) announce new guidance in light of coronavirus.

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/

The ICO has stated the following:

Data protection is not a barrier to increased and different types of homeworking. During the pandemic, staff may work from home more frequently than usual and they can use their own device or communications equipment. Data protection law doesn’t prevent that, but you’ll need to consider the same kinds of security measures for homeworking that you’d use in normal circumstances.”

Whether you work from home or in the office, you still need to comply with data protection laws. While you need to process personal data with the same care you use in the office, the home working environment throws up specific data protection concerns particularly in respect of data security. You should make sure you have a home working policy which deals with data protection and these data security issues.

 Organisations must ensure that, for staff who can work from home, their obligations in respect of processing personal data are clearly communicated. Organisations may already have a home working policy – if this is the case, then this should be reviewed to ensure it remains relevant and up-to-date for practices during this pandemic.

Should I have a homeworking policy?

If organisations don’t have a formal home working policy, then they should set out, as soon as possible, in clear terms, what is expected of employees from a data protection perspective when working from home. These might include:

  • If someone is using their own device for remote working, ensuring that any devices that hold work-related information have up-to-date anti-virus software and that broadband connections have properly configured firewalls
  • Reminding staff to contact the organisation’s IT department if they encounter any issues with home working, and not to try and resolve any issues themselves
  • Reminding staff that they should notify relevant individuals within the organisation if they consider that there might have been a personal data breach. A breach will still be notifiable even if it does occur at home during the pandemic. These should be logged by the organisation in their data breach log in the normal way
  • Ensuring staff lock their devices whenever they are not using them
  • Where possible, working in a separate part of the home to family members
  • Ensuring confidentiality of information – advising staff not to have phone calls where others are likely to hear the conversation. This might mean moving to a different room, closing the door, or arranging a call for a more convenient time. If employees have smart speakers, you may want to consider advising them to either turn these off, if they are working in the same room as it, or work in a different room
  • Wherever possible, avoid taking hard copy documents home, and, if papers are taken home, never placing those papers in a bin or using a home shredder – any such papers should be shredded back at the office in the usual way
  • Locking any papers in a safe place
  • Not using social media platforms (unless already used and permitted by the organisation) to discuss work matters
  • Advising extra caution with incoming emails as at times such as this there may be an increased risk of fraud, email hacking, spear phishing etc.
  • Avoiding information being sent to personal email accounts (for example, so it can then be printed at home)
  • Reminding staff of your organisation’s Information Security policies, procedures and protocols. These could be emailed to all staff working from home or they could be directed to such documents on the organisation’s intranet, for example

Organisations should also ensure that their remote access systems can cope with increased demand.

Whilst the ICO appreciates the unprecedented nature of this pandemic, it does not mean that organisations can forget about their obligations as controllers of personal data. If a major data security breach were to happen, there is still the possibility of enforcement action where the organisation didn’t put in place good risk mitigation measures.

We have a specialist team of data protection lawyers here at Ward Hadaway, and would be happy to discuss any data protection concerns or issues that you might have.

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.

Can I collect health data in relation to Covid-19?

Yes. With respect to employees you have an obligation to protect their health so you can gather information to do that. You might gather information from your employees on who has the virus, who has had it and recovered and also who has tested negative. You might also want to know if individuals have been in contact with someone who has it or if they are in a vulnerable group. It is reasonable to want to know where individuals have travelled. In the future it may also be reasonable to know if they are planning to travel to a virus hot spot, as the impact of the virus around the world is likely to continue for some time even after the outbreak has been contained in the UK.

It is reasonable to gather some information about visitors to your site, be they customers or suppliers, as this information will also help protect your staff. However, you should keep what you gather to a minimum. For visitors, it’s unlikely that you need to know anything more than they have Covid-19, are displaying symptoms or have recently been in contact with someone who has the virus.

What do we need to do?

Privacy policy – You must make sure the relevant privacy policies deal with how you will process Covid-19 data. You should have an employee privacy policy and this may already deal with health data (if it doesn’t, it should). You might also need to look at privacy policies for customers, visitors and suppliers. This ensures that processing is lawful, fair and transparent.

Lawful processing conditions – You will need to consider which processing conditions you are relying on (remembering that you need both an Article 6 condition and an Article 9 condition – this is the part of the GDPR which deals with special category data). As a lot of the data you collect will be about employees, you can’t use consent so you will have to find another lawful reason under GDPR which allows you to process the data.

Appropriate policy document – When you are considering your Article 9 processing conditions, remember you must also have an “appropriate policy document” in place.

Processing record – Finally make sure your processing record is up to date with information on what data you collect and use.

How much data can I gather?

You also need to consider other aspects of data protection.

Be proportionate – only gather and use Covid-19 data where you need to.

Keep data to a minimum – you shouldn’t gather more data than you need. You need to know someone has Covid-19 but you don’t need to know all their symptoms. Data minimisation also applies to who gets access to the data. It’s unlikely that a spreadsheet, accessible to everyone updating them on the health status of all employees, would be appropriate. Data should be shared on a need to know basis. You need to balance the privacy of individuals against your duty of care to be responsible with regards to the data of your employees, visitors, customers and suppliers.

Keep it up to date – make sure you update data. People’s health status will change and if you keep a record of this, you need to  make sure it is accurate and up to date (although this doesn’t mean you should batter individuals with constant requests for updates on health status. Again, be proportionate).

Identify individuals only when you need to – although you will need to know who has Covid-19, that doesn’t mean you need to tell everyone in the organisation. As soon as you can, you should remove personal data from any information you gather. For example, you might want to update employees on the health status of their fellow employees but you probably don’t need to name individuals and even if you feel it is necessary, you should keep the information you provide to a minimum. Removing personal identifiers in a document is also a good data security technique.

Keep the Covid-19 health data secure – Covid-19 data will be special category data and deemed high risk. This means that if you have a breach of this data you will need to notify it to the ICO. A breach could happen by someone losing a print-out of the names of Covid-19 employees, customers or visitors. It could also happen if you set access rights to lists of Covid-19 sufferers open to more people than need to know the information. The risk of ICO enforcement action increases with the potential harm the disclosure could cause. Although the ICO has indicated that it will be understanding about the impact of Covid-19 on normal operations, this doesn’t mean that they will not prosecute you if the breach is sufficiently serious.

Destroy the data once you don’t need it – Finally, of course, make sure that you delete data at the end of your needs. This might last longer than the pandemic, for example if you have an insurance claim or ongoing litigation. If you do need to keep it, consider whether or not you can delete some of the data to minimise what you hold.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

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Judy Baker

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+44 (0) 784 351 5807

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