A broken promise? Privacy matters

As COVID-19 monitoring escalates, personal privacy plummets.

As the coronavirus pandemic gets worse worldwide, privacy authorities are ‘lifting’ data restrictions for health officials to keep track of the outbreak. In some countries this means tracking quarantined people with smart tracking on their mobile phones. Using location data to track people's movement during quarantine and checking in to make sure if they are staying in their assigned place, proven to be an effective measure for preventing further spreading (Wuhan, Singapore).

At a media briefing on March 16th, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, even stated that more technological measures should be introduced for tracking the coronavirus outbreak.

Even though it seems like breaking the ‘promise‘ (laid out in privacy laws), which varies across countries, most privacy laws contain contents ‘prioritizing lives over privacy’. Our own Personal Data Protection Ordinance[1] contains article 23.1.e, which states that the restriction on processing personal data is not applicable for the sake of protection of vital public interest (e.g. public health). The Minister can impose restrictions and regulations when granting an exemption.

Even in a global crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic privacy matters, but let’s keep in mind that some lines should not be crossed. According to Curaçao’s Personal Data Protection Ordinance, health data is sensitive personal data and should not be shared outside the health care system.

Sharing personal information of a COVID-19 case (or any disease for that matter) via other means than in between the necessary healthcare institutions is therefore in violation of this ordinance. Meaning if you share a picture or other personal data from a (probable) COVID-19 case via WhatsApp, Facebook or any social media platform you are in violation of the law. Storing such personal data (name, picture, address, workplace) is also not allowed. Technically when someone shares information in for example an app group, such information typically remains stored on your device and this is considered a violation of the Ordinance as well. Even looking at the picture or showing it to someone is considered violation of the Ordinance.

What can you do when such information is shared with you?

  1. Immediately delete this information from our device(s).
  2. Notify the sender that they are violating Curacao’s Personal Data Protection Ordinance and that you do not wish to receive such information.
  3. Consider leaving the chatgroup if the members keep sharing private information of others.

In a time where information is at our fingertips, we often forget the human ethical aspects. So, let’s live by this quote from Confucius “Don't do unto others what you don't want done unto you.”

An article by Roy Jansen & Juwel Cecilia 


[1] Landsverordening bescherming persoonsgegevens



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