While most of us battle with technology and adapt our way of living and working under COVID19 criminals spotted an opportunity to for cyber attacks and fraud.

The National Cyber Security Centre recently announced it had removed more than 2,000 coronavirus related scams in March 2020.  Those threats will always be evolving and will always be around.  Coronavirus just presents a new opportunity to manipulate people’s feelings so that they are more likely to click on that link or open that email.

But there are other ways in which our privacy is being undermined.  A recent trip to the bank was horrifying, not only because of the 15 minute queue outside on the pavement, but also because the helpful staff were out on the pavement taking details to help guide us to the quickest solution for our needs.

One particularly loud discussion was around the need to make a small money transfer and the customer was castigated for not having signed up for online banking.  It seems that the circumstances of social distancing don’t allow for privacy.  Where, before lockdown, there would be signs asking customers to stand back from the counter to allow fellow customers some privacy, now it is acceptable to shout customers’ business in the street.

Similarly we are now aware of our neighbours’ vulnerabilities.  We have learned about the health conditions behind those that are shielding as we try to support one another through coronavirus.  How many volunteers now deliver medicines to neighbours and groceries to the elderly?  There is relatively free discussion about health conditions that did not exist previously.  Does that fall within the “domestic exemption” for use of data so that GDPR does not apply?  It does not matter, we all have the right to privacy for aspects of our personal life.  We need to remember that and get back to normal levels of confidentiality in our day to day dealings.

Partial lockdown is the “new normal”.  We can no longer argue that these are exceptional times and we must revisit the basic Human Rights that we used to enjoy.  Lockdown has gone on for more than two months and is likely to continue in some form for some people for a long time yet.  The examples used in this article demonstrate that employees and volunteers need guidance on how to fulfil their role while maintaining the privacy of service users.  It is time to provide that guidance and train colleagues in the best ways to maintain confidentiality in their new world of work.  This is not an emergency any more, it is normal life for us in 2020.

Data Protection Consulting can help with all aspects of data protection including risk assessments for new ways of working, online training for staff and managers and continuing support for clients.

Mandy P Webster, Data Protection Consultant