The UK’s data regulator says it will relax its regulatory approach to enforcement during the COVID-19 crisis, in line with a commitment to being “pragmatic” and “proportionate”.
This flexibility allows the regulator to “recognise and engage with the unique challenges the country is facing”. “The data protection laws contain checks and balances to ensure that personal information can flow and be effectively utilised for healthcare.” Click here to read the full document How we will regulate during Coronavirus
The ICO will take into account the strain on government and health services, as organisations facing staff shortages and financial pressures when applying data protection laws.
The document from the ICO makes reference to the use of UK citizens’ personal data in the response to the coronavirus crisis, saying “there are appropriate and proportionate safeguards for individual’s personal information that also allow for a recognition of the public interest, for instance in the use of apps, research projects and digital tools that rely on large personal data sets”.
With regards to dealing with public complaints about data misuse, the ICO said that it will “continue to recognise the rights and protections granted to people by the law, both around their personal information and their right to freedom of information”, but that it will focus its efforts on the “most serious challenges and greatest threats to the public”.
The body says it “expect[s] to conduct fewer investigations, focussing our attention on those circumstances which suggest serious non-compliance”. However, it will “take a strong regulatory approach against any organisation breaching data protection laws to take advantage of the current crisis”.
“As set out in the Regulatory Action Policy, before issuing fines we take into account the economic impact and affordability. In current circumstances, this is likely to mean the level of fines reduces.”
With regards the Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Information Regulation, the regulator said, “We will take an empathetic and pragmatic approach to our role regulating access to information regulation, recognising the importance of transparency, especially where people have seen their civil liberties impacted.
“We must reflect these exceptional times,” said Denham. “We will continue to recognise the continuing importance of privacy protections, and the value of transparency provided by freedom of information. These rights are a part of modern life we must not lose. But my office will continue to safeguard information rights in an empathetic and pragmatic way that reflects the impact of coronavirus.”