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Data Protection Round-up: Data privacy and Online Safety Bill

Lost employment records 

Employers with longstanding employees are likely to have changed record/filing systems over the employee’s length of service. Outside of the tribunal context, the increasing use of data subject access requests is leading to unwanted exposure of employers’ record keeping habits.

A recent case demonstrates the potentially costly outcome. In this case, Tesco and a former employee have settled a data breach claim for £3,000.00. During tribunal proceedings the employee requested copies of their employment records going back some 15 years.

These records included sensitive medical information such as notes from counselling sessions. However, when Tesco (her employer) attempted to find the information, they were unable to, despite extensive searches.

When it was discovered that the records were lost, the employee issued separate proceedings for a data breach. How can employers avoid costly claims?

Employers should ensure that their employee records and databases are kept in good workable, and retrievable, order.

Privacy expectations of video teleconferencing

The ICO has issued a joint statement on privacy expectations of video teleconferencing companies.

In July 2020, six global data protection authorities (those of Australia, Canada, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, China, Switzerland, and the UK) signed an open letter to five of the biggest video teleconferencing companies (inc. Microsoft, Google, and Zoom).

Given the rapid rise in use of such technology and the consequential exposure of personal data and the potential negation of other privacy rights, the signatories were keen to understand the measures and privacy safeguards the companies had in place.

The letter set out five guiding principles necessary to address the key privacy risks: Security, Privacy-by-design and default, Know your audience, Transparency and fairness, and End-user control.

The joint statement confirms that the letter has led to constructive engagement with each company setting out their approach to data protection and privacy and how they take each of the principles into account and the risks involved.

The joint statement further explores the privacy principles, and sets out further commentary and observations the signatories hope the companies will implement. Video teleconferencing is here to stay and we expect facilitators of such technology to be under increasing scrutiny.

Tesco and a former employee have settled a data breach claim for £3,000.00. During tribunal proceedings the employee requested copies of their employment records going back some 15 years.

DCMS responds to Freedom of Expression report

Back in May of this year, the Government published its Online Safety Bill. The purpose of the bill is to impose a duty of care on the companies that host user-generated content, and facilitate interaction between its users, to prevent exposure to illegal and harmful content.

Subsequently, in July, the House of Lords published its own report responding to the Bill and now the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has responded to the report. The response is comprehensive and thorough; read the full DCMS response to the House of Lords Communications Committee’s report on Freedom of Expression in the Digital Age ( summary: 

  • On the subject of removing content, The House of Lords stated that they believe platforms’ approaches to misinformation are stifling freedom of speech and that posts should only be removed in exceptional circumstances. The DCMS confirmed that it would be up to the platforms to decide what is and is not acceptable on their services.  
  • The DCMS disagreed with the House of Lords that OFCOM should set strict timeframes for the removal of content that is clearly illegal. The DCMS believes that timeframes could have a negative impact on freedom of expression by incentivising over-removal of content without proper review.
  • The DCMS agrees with the House of Lords in that robust privacy standard should form part of a design duty. The DCMS goes onto confirm that such obligations are intended to work alongside existing data protection obligation.

The above, whilst only commentary on a draft bill gives us a good indication as to the Government’s digital direction, in particular their views on how online content is reviewed. 


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