Privacy Rights in Coronavirus Times: The End of GDPR as We Know It?

The fight against the coronavirus has thrown up some interesting privacy rights dilemmas.

The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, announced on Saturday evening that due to the outbreak of the coronavirus in Israel, phone tracking on citizens that have been diagnosed with the coronavirus will be conducted by the Israel Security Agency. The decision is backed by the Israeli legal advisor to the government and the Ministry of Justice.

At first glance, this extreme measure may seem unorthodox to many European businesses and legal advisors, and the first thought that will likely come to mind is how our GDPR rights might be affected by this measure.

Although the measure is enforced in a country with only an Association Agreement with the EU, the rights of EU citizens are affected to a great extent, especially for those with dual nationals and Israeli citizens with companies domiciled in the EU.

To that effect, the Israeli government is opening itself up to potential applications to member state data privacy agencies, who, in turn, will have to determine whether there was a genuine necessity for such a measure.

The coronavirus is not only shaping the realm of privacy rights, but also financial rights within the same context. To what extent shall the Israeli government continue to monitor its citizens? Shall financial transactions be deemed the new tracking system?

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The anticipated legal uncertainty, also within the financial sphere, will eventually be determined by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). A case concerning a breach of privacy rights under the GDPR will have to be lodged to the local member state courts, which, in turn, will have to be brought to the CJEU as a preliminary ruling, that will have to rule whether an epidemic may be considered sufficient grounds for significant mitigation of privacy rights under the GDPR instrument.

It is in times like these that privacy rights are crucial for the protection of human rights, but also of the global financial market as a whole.

Ella Rosenberg is an EU Law Regulatory Consultant at the Porat Group and CEO of the Israel-EU Chamber of Commerce and Industry



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