Category: COVID-19 and Privacy

Uproar in UK Over Police Getting COVID Self-Isolation Data

By Robert Bateman

Police in England will receive the personal information of people told to self-isolate because of COVID-19, as part of a policy that aims to increase compliance with pandemic emergency laws.

But experts in epidemiology, social psychology — even policing — told Digital Privacy News that the practice ultimately could harm efforts to fight COVID.

“Collective pandemic response is completely dependent on public trust,” said Deepti Gurdasani, senior lecturer in clinical epidemiology and statistical genetics at Queen Mary’s University of London.

Continue reading “Uproar in UK Over Police Getting COVID Self-Isolation Data”

Workers, Homeowner Associations Square Off Over Rules in Pandemic

By Joanne Cleaver 

A home-based doggy boarding business nearly cost Dianna Sells her house.  

Sells didn’t realize that her retirement business of taking in sedate older dogs for short periods violated the rules and regulations of the homeowners association (HOA) in which her house is situated in Round Rock, Texas.

After all, her yard is big, the geriatric dogs were quiet — and many of her clients were neighbors. 

Then someone — Sells told Digital Privacy News she still doesn’t know who — complained to the association’s board.

Continue reading “Workers, Homeowner Associations Square Off Over Rules in Pandemic”

Using Subpoenas in COVID Raise Privacy, Overpolicing Questions

By Tammy Joyner

Last of two parts.

The seven-month-old COVID-19 pandemic has raised a thorny ethical issue: When is it necessary to override a person’s privacy? And is policing obstinate behavior during a pandemic ethical?

“There’s very much this tension between individual privacy and protecting the public,” Kelly Hills, a bioethicist and co-principal of the Rogue Bioethics consultancy in Lowell, Mass., told Digital Privacy News. “We’re still working out what it means to do public-health ethics.”

Americans total 4% of the world’s population but account for nearly one in four of the world’s coronavirus cases — and a little more than one in five of the deaths globally, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

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NY Suburb Turns to Subpoenas to Stop Parties During Pandemic

By Tammy Joyner

First of two parts.

Tracking a killer is exhaustive work, especially when witnesses won’t cooperate.

Partygoers in the tony New York suburb of Rockland County recently found that out the hard way.

After being stonewalled, Rockland public-health officials in July served a group of obstinate revelers with subpoenas that carried a $2,000-a-day fine.

Rockland County contact-tracers, or disease detectives, had learned that some residents had contracted COVID-19 after attending a party of as many as 100 20-somethings in mid-June.

Continue reading “NY Suburb Turns to Subpoenas to Stop Parties During Pandemic”

UK Politicians Demand Privacy Regulator Enforce Law Against Government

By Robert Bateman

The U.K. government has shown “scant regard to both privacy concerns and data protection duties” — and the country’s privacy regulator has failed to protect the public’s personal information, according to a letter from 22 opposition politicians.

The Aug. 21 letter, signed by 22 members of Parliament from four political parties, was addressed to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) — the “data protection authority” responsible for enforcing privacy law in the U.K.

The office is headed by Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham.

The government has been accused of breaching privacy law on numerous occasions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including in July, when it admitted that it had not assessed the privacy risks involved in its “test and trace” program properly.

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Districts Implement Lessons from Spring Emergency Online Learning

By Samantha Cleaver

Last of a series.

School districts across the country spent the summer hedging bets on how the 2020-21 year would begin amid COVID-19.

Now, as students fill backpacks to return to school in-person or online, Digital Privacy News is examining how this year will impact students’ and teachers’ privacy.

“We are behind the eight-ball,” said Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute. “These are conversations we should have been facilitating in May and June.”

Today’s Digital Privacy News report examines what school districts have learned from the spring online learning season brought on by COVID.

When Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia had to shift to emergency learning in the spring, Vincent Scheivert, assistant superintendent for digital innovation, found that the available applications often weren’t ready — particularly when it came to privacy.

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Recording, Sharing Lessons Spur Debate on How to Record Right

By Samantha Cleaver

Second of a series.

School districts across the country have spent the summer hedging bets on how the 2020-21 year would begin amid COVID-19.

Now, as students fill backpacks to return to school in-person or online, Digital Privacy News is examining how this year will impact students’ and teachers’ privacy.

“We are behind the eight-ball,” said Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute. “These are conversations we should have been facilitating in May and June.”

Today’s report discusses the privacy dilemmas involved in recording and sharing student lessons.

Monica Herman (name has been changed) teaches fourth grade in New Jersey. She is teaching completely online this fall.

In previous years, Herman used Screencastify to record lessons of her voice alongside a text or slide deck. Then, she posted the videos in Google Classroom to share with students.

However, thinking toward this year, Herman questioned the privacy implications of streaming live lessons from her classroom.

Continue reading “Recording, Sharing Lessons Spur Debate on How to Record Right”

Unenforceable Urban Legend?

Teacher Waivers for COVID Raise Privacy Fears as Schools Re-Open for New Year

By Samantha Cleaver

First of a series.

School districts across the country have spent the summer hedging bets on how the 2020-21 year would begin amid COVID-19.

Now, as students fill backpacks to return to school in-person or online, Digital Privacy News is examining how this school year will impact students’ and teachers’ privacy.

“We are behind the eight-ball,” said Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute. “These are conversations we should have been facilitating in May and June.”

In this three-day series, Digital Privacy News examines issues that have emerged at the start of this school year.

Today’s report addresses liability waivers that teachers are being asked to sign to protect districts should they or their students contract COVID.

As schools start to re-open and teachers return, school boards, districts, even Congress are thinking about liability.

Continue reading “Unenforceable Urban Legend?”

Public PPP Loan Data Strips Anonymity From Private Firms

By Joanne Cleaver

Fuse Financial Partners received a $150,000 potentially forgivable loan through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), created by Congress as part of the federal CARES Act.

And the whole world knows about it.

David Worrell, the firm’s managing partner, used the money as Congress intended: to continuing paying his 10 employees.

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GOP Using ‘Smart Badges’ at Convention, Raising Privacy Flags

By Joanne Cleaver 

Tagged so they can be bagged.

Participants in the Republican National Convention next week will wear electronic “smart badges” that document their movements to speed contact-tracing should anyone subsequently develop COVID-19.

Some elements of the scaled-down convention will be held in Charlotte, N.C., Monday through Thursday. Attendees will be assigned badges that communicate with one another to document where the badge-wearers are, and who they move close to, within the confines of the location. 

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EEOC Says ADA Bars Employee Antibody Testing, For Now

By Myrle Croasdale

Employers can check employees’ temperatures, and they can require a COVID-19 virus test. Both as a condition for returning to work.

But what they can’t do, at least for now, is ask them to submit to a COVID antibody test.

In June, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) determined that under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an antibody test was a medical examination and that employees with these antibodies did not present a direct threat to others at work.

“The ADA at this time does not allow employers to require antibody testing before allowing employees to re-enter the workplace,” the EEOC announcement said.

The ADA governs disability-related inquiries and medical exams and prohibits employers from excluding employees with a disability from the workplace for health and safety reasons unless the employee’s health poses a direct threat to others.

“An antibody test at this time does not meet the ADA’s ‘job-related and consistent with business necessity’ standard for medical examinations,” the commission stated.

The key here, some experts told Digital Privacy News, is the “direct threat” issue.

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More Than a Checkbox: School Districts Face Attendance Issues With COVID

By Samantha Cleaver

The Kentucky Department of Education released its plan last month to monitor attendance for this school year.

Instead of taking daily attendance in class, Kentucky districts will record student participation in the learning management system Infinite Campus.

As districts across the country announced plans for the 2020-2021 school year amid COVID-19, many — including large districts like Los Angeles and Charlotte, N.C. — plan to start the year with virtual instruction.

This poses a challenge for how to track attendance.

Continue reading “More Than a Checkbox: School Districts Face Attendance Issues With COVID”

Fake Unemployment Claims Spiking With COVID, FBI Says

By Sheryl Nance-Nash

It’s bad enough when you lose your job. Right now, though, chances are your bad luck may not end there.

Complaints of fraudulent unemployment insurance claims are spiking because of COVID-19, according to the FBI, and the claims use stolen personally identifiable information (PII).

In congressional testimony in June, Scott Dahl, a recently retired inspector general at the U.S. Labor Department, said that so far this year the agency was investigating more than 400 cases of unemployment insurance fraud.

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Companies Turn to Social-Distancing Wristbands for COVID, Raising Employee Privacy Concerns

By Linda Childers

As companies across the country gradually reopen in the wake of COVID-19, many have implemented safety protocols designed to keep employees healthy.

One technological solution being marketed to businesses are social-distancing and contact-tracing wristbands.

They are designed to enforce the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines of maintaining a six-feet distance from others to try to mitigate risks of contagion.

The wristbands might sound like a benign way to keep employees safe, but experts told Digital Privacy News that the technology might add another layer of surveillance to workplaces and could be used to penalize employees for spending the workday outside of designated areas.

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UK Government Admits Failing to Assess ‘Test and Trace’ Privacy Risks Properly

By Robert Bateman

The U.K. government has admitted that its COVID-19 “test and trace” program was begun in May without an appropriate “data-protection impact assessment” (DPIA) in place, with experts telling Digital Privacy News that the omission represented a serious breach of privacy law.

The revelation came in a July 15 letter from the government’s legal department, shared with Digital Privacy News via a news release from U.K. campaigning organization the Open Rights Group.

A DPIA is required under U.K. law before commencing any project carrying a high risk to individual privacy. The government claimed to have conducted several DPIAs covering aspects of the program but admitted it should have completed an overarching assessment before it launched on May 28.

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COVID Forcing Small Businesses to Address Privacy Issues

By Joanne Cleaver

One of the first things Stephanie Genkin did as a new certified financial planner was establish her business-financial accounts separate from her personal accounts. 

That’s a proactive step she fears some last-minute entrepreneurs might overlook in the scramble to earn extra income to get through the economic crisis induced by the coronavirus pandemic. 

“No matter what deal you get for your personal finances, don’t mix that with business,” the Brooklyn-based planner told Digital Privacy News.

That goes for credit cards, bank accounts and, currently, loans through U.S. government programs intended to aid households and small businesses.

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Churches Grappling With Online Giving, Data Issues From COVID

By Joanne Cleaver 

Digital giving has been heaven-sent for churches, which have been forced to pivot from on-site to online worship and community in the COVID-19 pandemic.

But in the process of shifting from cash in the collection plate to digital platforms, privacy has not always been a top consideration.

Churches are catching up as they abandon potluck privacy to the more stringent standards required by formalized digital transactions that are subject to financial regulations.

“Churches have rich information about members, from dates of birth to marriage status — information that advertisers would pay a premium to access,” Walle Mafolasire, founder of Givelify, a digital-giving platform for churches and nonprofits based in Indianapolis, told Digital Privacy News.

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College Athletes Returning to Campus with Temp Checks and Contact-Tracing

By Samantha Cleaver

When student athletes at the University of Louisville returned to campus the first week of June, they were met with drive-up coronavirus testing at the campus stadium.

Besides testing, the University of Louisville campus had put other protections in place, such as allowing only small groups of athletes to return, opening training sites with limited occupancy and encouraging social-distancing and wearing masks.

So far, the athletic department at Louisville has not provided any results from the testing they’ve done, Kenny Klein, senior associate athletic director, told Digital Privacy News.

The sample size has been small, and because so few students were on campus, individuals could be identified through reporting.

As student athletes continue to return to colleges, they are the first wave of university students to experience COVID-19 testing, and the privacy measures that come with it.

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Sun, STEM, Security: Summer Camps Go Virtual and Deal with Privacy Issues

By Samantha Cleaver

Ellen Zavian’s 14-year-old son was interested in the University of Maryland engineering Seaperch camp, but instead of being on campus, it was moved online.

Campers use materials at home and work through experiments led through Zoom calls.

Zavian, a member of the Safe Tech Committee in Montgomery County, Md., outside Washington, read the fine print and saw that campers had the option to use cameras for recordings. She liked that.

For Zavian and her family, the ability to opt out of audio and video recording helped them think through how her son would attend camp securely.

She is one of many parents who find themselves preparing for online summer camp for the first time. On the other side, many camps are moving into the uncharted territory of online programming.

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What Has US Learned from Asia’s COVID-Privacy Battle? Not Much, Experts Say

By Charles McDermid

Last of two parts.

The United States has done little to implement the data-privacy lessons learned in Asia after regional governments rolled out strict measures to control the spread of COVID-19, analysts told Digital Privacy News. 

In some Asian countries, the tough tactics — contact-tracing apps and so-called digital fencing — drew data-security concerns from an internet-savvy region long weary of hacks, leaks and enhanced surveillance. 

Continue reading “What Has US Learned from Asia’s COVID-Privacy Battle? Not Much, Experts Say”