January 25, 2021
COVID-19 opens ‘Pandora's box' of Florida businesses' privacy concerns

A CSR employee monitors security activity of an account.

Cyber-Security

COVID-19 opens ‘Pandora's box' of Florida businesses' privacy concerns

Amy Keller | 6/25/2020

CSR Privacy Solutions, a Jensen Beach company that provides data breach prevention services and privacy compliance solutions for businesses, has been inundated with calls.

Some have to do with the increase in ransomware and phishing attacks that have coincided with the shift to telework, says CEO Ross Federgreen — but COVID-19 has also opened up a “Pandora’s box” of privacy issues. “The No. 1 issue people are addressing right now is the monitoring of people’s health, and what they (businesses) can or cannot do with that information,” he says.

Another concern is more practical: Temperature taking. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has said it’s legal for employers to check the temperature of their employees and send them home if they show signs of being sick. But Federgreen warns companies to be careful about how they collect, store and share health information, and businesses also need to be mindful they’re not “crossing the line” from monitoring people to diagnosing them as being sick, which is something only licensed physicians can do.

Contact-tracing apps are another hot topic. Concerns about security and privacy risks loom large — and the specter of an Orwellian “Big Brother” is especially troubling. “Emotionally, the biggest concern a lot of people have is if you impose this sort of tracking, can you ever put the genie back in the bottle? And in most cases, the answer is no,” says Federgreen.

To address such concerns, a group of U.S. senators has worked on a bill that would provide protections for personal data that’s gathered during the pandemic. Specifically, the COVID-19 Consumer Data Protection Act would require that companies obtain “affirmative express consent” from individuals before they collect and use their personal health, geolocation or proximity information. It would also require companies to delete or de-identify all personally identifiable information when it is no longer being used for the COVID-19 public health emergency.

 

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