As summer nears its end, uncertainty and complexity lie ahead for many companies as they evaluate how to operationalize compliance with the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), existing California employment laws and potentially the passage of a federal privacy law, the American Data Protection and Privacy Act, H.R. 8152
This alert focuses on the ongoing and developing privacy issues that have arisen for employers and healthcare providers communicating about the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Specifically, we will discuss the steps that employers and healthcare companies need to consider when communicating to its employees, the media and general public, and government officials when an individual has been diagnosed with the coronavirus or may have been exposed to the coronavirus.
In late March, the French Data Protection Authority, Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (“CNIL”) released a model regulation (the “Model Regulation”) governing the use of biometric access controls in the workplace. Unlike many items of personal information, biometric data (such as a person’s face or fingerprints) is unique and, if stolen or otherwise compromised, cannot be changed to avoid misuse. Under Article 9 of the GDPR, biometric data collected “for the purpose of uniquely identifying a natural person” is considered “sensitive” and warrants additional protections. The GDPR authorizes Member States to implement such additional protections. As such, the French Data Protection Act 78-17 of 6 January 1978, as amended, now provides that employers – whether public or private – wishing to use biometric access controls must comply with binding model regulations adopted by the CNIL, the first of which is the Model Regulation.
Over the course of the coming weeks, we will examine the various options available to companies in light of the European Court of Justice’s (CJEU) decision invalidating the US-EU Safe Harbor framework, including model contracts, binding corporate rules (BCRs), consent and reliance on derogations.
News out of Germany, however, indicates that a one-size-fits all approach to data transfers from the EU to the U.S. may be difficult to achieve.
In Securities and Exchange Commission v. Huang, the district court held that the Fifth Amendment protected two former employees against having to disclose their personal passcodes for company-issued smartphones to government officials. The decision, likely subject to appellate review, exemplifies the competing interests at play as individuals increasingly use company-issued smartphones for business and personal use.
Connecticut has joined a list of twenty-one states with a statute designed to preserve the privacy of personal online accounts of employees and limit the use of information related to such accounts in employment decision-making. Legislation directed to online privacy of employees has also passed this year in Montana, Virginia, and Oregon, and such legislation is pending in a number of other states.
In a recent decision (deliberation CNIL May 30, 2013 n°2013-139), the French Data Protection Agency (CNIL) sanctioned a company for implementing a CCTV system without informing employees and because the CCTV enabled the constant monitoring of one employee making the recording disproportionate to the goal pursued. The CNIL also sanctioned the company because it failed to implement an adequate level of security of the data housed on its systems.
In France, the guiding principle is that emails received or sent by an employee through the employer’s company email account are considered “professional”, which means that the employer can access and read them. However, French employers must be cautious before accessing their employees’ professional emails because they are not permitted to access emails that have been identified by the employee as being “ personal” or “ private”. Recently, the French Supreme Court, in a decision of June 19th, 2013 (n°12-12138: http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichJuriJudi.do?oldAction=rechJuriJudi&idTexte=JURITEXT000027596663&fastReqId=1099388011&fastPos=1) addressed this issue in detail.