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Joint Statement on the right to data protection in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 | coronavirus

Tax News, April 2020

On 8 April 2020, the Personal Data Protection Agency in BiH has published on its official website the Joint Statement on the right to data protection in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, made on 30 March 2020 by Alessandra Pierucci, Chair of the Committee of Convention 108 and Jean-Philippe Walter, Data Protection Commissioner of the Council of Europe (the “Joint Statement”).

Authors of the Joint Statement have referred to debating issues regarding protection of privacy rights in extraordinary circumstances, by giving their overview on different types of data processing.

Processing of health-related data

Communication to the public government authorities should remain a priority, with an aim to protect, inform and advise the public. During such communications, the publication of sensitive data of individuals should be avoided and data processing should be done only if adequate technical and organizational measures are put in place.

Large-scale data processing

Data should be processed in such environments in a way that respects human dignity and data protection.
Some of the key points to take into account in the development of innovative solutions to fight against COVID-19 are:

  • Transparency and “explainability” of analytics or AI solutions
  • Precautionary approach and a risk management strategy
  • Focus on data quality and minimisation
  • Role of human oversight
Data processing by employers

New business practices should not lead to the monitoring of employees, including by video means; non-intrusive measures should be considered when organizing the work and working conditions.
In the given circumstances, employers may have to process personal or sensitive data that they usually do not process. When doing so, they should respect the principles of necessity, proportionality and accountability and should minimize any risks that such processing might pose to employees’ rights.

Mobile, computer data

Telecommunication companies, online platforms and internet service providers are also actively involved in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 and are increasingly required to share subscriber data. Large-scale personal data processing can only be performed when, based on scientific evidence, the potential public health benefits of such digital epidemic surveillance override the benefits of other alternative solutions which would be less intrusive.

Data processing in educational systems

When considering the technical solutions aimed at ensuring the continuity of the educational work, data protection-oriented standard configurations should be preferred (e.g. regarding the default settings) so that the usage of applications and software does not infringe the rights of the data subjects.

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