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COVID-19 a game changer for data protection?

The year 2020 begins with major challenges. The crisis surrounding the corona virus is keeping citizens, healthcare, the economy and politics around the world in suspense. Who would have thought in February 2020 that Europe-wide curfews would be implemented in March 2020?

Limitation of fundamental rights

In Germany, too, various basic rights, such as freedom of movement and assembly, were severely restricted or suspended in a very short time. The corona infection figures are rising sharply, so that politicians have been forced to take action.

Nationwide, entire branches of industry such as gastronomy, sports studios or hairdressers were closed by general decree. General ruling was a term for me that I first had to research using DuckDuckGo.

"A general ruling is an administrative act directed at an addressee group which is or can be determined according to general characteristics, see § 35 sentence 2 of the Administrative Procedure Act (VwVfG). According to this, every general ruling is a concrete general regulation which regulates a specific individual case for an indefinite number of addressees.

Source: Federal Ministry of Finance

So much for official business. So we're all affected by corona. Keeping social distance, only spending time with immediate family are the order of the day. With all the consequences that this also means for the mental health of the citizens. Because not everyone has the opportunity to spend their time at home in a beautiful garden.

But despite all the open questions and concerns, we should be vigilant. Vigilant that our fundamental rights, which have come under pressure, are reactivated as they were before the crisis ended. Vigilant that after the crisis the borders in Europe are open again, because Europe is the basis for our prosperity.

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Right to informational self-determination

The right to informational self-determination is also coming under pressure in the crisis. Data protection is seen as a hindrance. Because the opinion is: data must flow freely in order to control the situation. Even comprehensive mobile tracking of citizens comes into the focus of lawmakers.

And what do the data protectionists say? In Germany, the highest data protection authorities see data protection as an important component in overcoming the crisis. In an anxious and unclear situation it is very helpful if clear rules apply. For example, sick people should not be denounced publicly, but their data should be handled very carefully. Fear of those affected can be effectively reduced.

Data protection is therefore also important in times of crisis. It is questionable whether the EU's chief data protection officer sees this in the same way. In view of the crisis, he calls for a rethink of the European data protection strategy:

"Covid-19 is a game changer."


According to the European Data Protection Supervisor Wojciech Wiewiórowski. What is to be changed remains unanswered, however. As data protectors, we should keep a close eye on this.

Learnings from the Covid 19 crisis

Learn from the Covid-19 crate. You'd better be prepared. Digitise your processes in the best possible way so that they can also work decentrally. Make your companies fit in terms of data protection and data security. How compliant are your home office solutions with data protection? Did you have contingency plans for the outbreak of a pandemic in your drawer?

Hence my conclusion: there is a lot to do, let's get on with it!

Prof. Dr. Andre Döring

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