Category: COVID-19 and Privacy

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.

Continue reading “Using Subpoenas in COVID Raise Privacy, Overpolicing Questions”

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.

Continue reading “UK Politicians Demand Privacy Regulator Enforce Law Against Government”

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.

Continue reading “Districts Implement Lessons from Spring Emergency Online Learning”

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.

Continue reading “Public PPP Loan Data Strips Anonymity From Private Firms”

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. 

Continue reading “GOP Using ‘Smart Badges’ at Convention, Raising Privacy Flags”

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.

Continue reading “EEOC Says ADA Bars Employee Antibody Testing, For Now”