Over the past couple years, data privacy has been a focal point among executives and government leaders. In the wake of major scandals involving the likes of Facebook, measures like GDPR and CCPA were enacted in an effort to curb the mishandling of data — and give peace of mind to customers about their personal information.
Then the world was flipped upside-down.
Now, leaders and decision-makers are funneling their time and energy into crisis management, hoping to reverse the course of this global crisis and adjust as needed for the “new normal.” No stone will be left unturned, including those related to data protection (and collection).
Prior to COVID-19, businesses and customers alike were still facing widespread data privacy issues, and discovering the limitations and flaws of policies like GDPR. These include thousands of recent data breaches, due to continued gaps in protection, and millions of fines for businesses that did not protect their customers or continued to misuse their privileged information. There are also complaints that government agencies are underperforming in their own measures, such as resources allocated to data protection watchdogs.
In the post-COVID world, not only are these issues ongoing — and their resolutions likely delayed -- but experts predict a new set of challenges and debates in data privacy. A slippery situation is poised to grow slipperier. As a business owner and operator, staying up-to-date with data privacy matters is increasingly critical, even as — or especially as — we head further into uncharted waters.
A significant component of the COVID recovery plan involves location tracking of patients and “contact tracing,” or logging details about the people who have come in contact with infected persons. Tech giants like Apple and Google are leading the efforts, bringing COVID-focused apps to market with help from public health departments.
Contract tracing and patient location tracking will generate a flurry of personal data, which will inevitably create new privacy risks. The European Union has pushed for the anonymization of this data to help protect the individual, and published guidance that prevents these efforts from being used in broader surveillance. But many believe that increased population surveillance is now inevitable — and necessary, for the time being.
“Successful efforts in several Asian countries already have shown that absent a vaccine or effective treatment, the best way to fight COVID-19 is to aggressively ‘track and trace’ infected individuals,” writes Fortune’s David Meyer in a piece published on April 20.
“Using tools from location tracking to smartphone apps, governments have been able to monitor shifting patterns of movement to indicate how best to impose or lift restrictions. They’ve also been able to alert individuals whose infection might need to be communicated to those who have recently crossed their path.”
In the U.S., an increasing number of contact tracing efforts are going into effect or being planned out. As millions of businesses prepare to reopen, employee monitoring may be the next major step in COVID safety, along with more aggressive health screenings. These considerations are already raising debate about worker privacy and what’s necessary versus excessive.
Smartphone tracking was a controversial storyline well before the epidemic. In the “information economy,” user location data gathered by our mobile devices became a currency of sorts, helping marketers identify opportunities based on location histories and predictions. This same data became a target for cybercriminals, whether for targeted attacks or black market resale to data brokers.
Now, with tensions at a rolling boil, the prospect of increased tracking adds yet another storyline to follow. But like the masks we’re now wearing on our daily walks, it may be a critical step in winning this unprecedented battle.
In the fall, data privacy measures will be on the ballot once again in California, this time with the California Privacy Rights Act (aka CCPA 2.0). It will include provisions to the law that “encourage data minimization and require opt-in rights around the use of sensitive data.” As COVID-related data tracking comes to the forefront, measures such as these could be paramount for maintaining the balance between protection and abuse of trust.
LocatorX has released updated data usage policies that reinforce our dedication to customer privacy and safety, during the global pandemic and beyond. You can find these policies on our company website.
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