Privacy concerns raised in EU institutions over COVID-related temperature checks

Medical workers are seen in a COVID-19 quarantine hospital in Cairo, Egypt, on June 15, 2020. Egypt reported on Monday its highest single-day COVID-19 deaths with 97 fatalities, taking the death toll in the North African country to 1,672, said the Egyptian Health Ministry. According to the ministry's spokesman Khaled Megahed, 1,691 new COVID-19 infections have also been registered in the past 24 hours, bringing the total confirmed cases to 46,289. (Xinhua/Ahmed Gomaa)
(Xinhua/Ahmed Gomaa)

The issue of privacy involved in the checks on body temperature in the European Union (EU) institutions was raised on Tuesday by European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) Wojciech Wiewiorowski.

Despite the fresh routine of body temperature checks that emerges in the fight against COVID-19, appropriate data protection safeguards are necessary, the EDPS stated in a media release.

According to Wiewiorowski, basic manual body temperature checks designed to measure body temperature only and do not involve any processing of individuals’ personal data would in principle not be subject to EU personal data protection laws.

However, other systems of temperature checks followed by the processing of individuals’ personal data, whether operated manually or automatically, are subject to the regulations, he noted.

Wiewiorowski advised that temperature checks in the EU institutions should be designed in such a way that the amount of collected personal data is minimised. He also said that any mandatory temperature checks should not be based solely on automated processing, but that human involvement should be available at relevant stages.

The EDPS is an independent supervisory authority with responsibility for monitoring the processing of personal data by the EU institutions and bodies, offices and agencies.

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