Combating the pandemic – acid test for data protection and the principle of transparency
Bern, 29.06.2021 - The year under review was marked by the COVID-19 pandemic. The FDPIC as supervisory authority for data protection monitored a large number of digital projects aimed at combating the virus. As the conciliation body for requests for access under the Freedom of Information Act, the Commissioner acted as a mediator to ensure that the public’s need for clarity on government measures to combat the virus was reconciled with the Federal Administration’s need to implement those measures as a matter of priority.
Combating COVID with digital applications
Supervisory activities relating to data protection concentrated on government and private sector pandemic-related apps, such as the SwissCovid app, the COVID certificate, myvaccines.ch and SocialPass. As can be seen from our regular communications on these projects, identifying and rectifying data protection-related deficiencies proved a challenge. All the more so when, as in the case of the last two projects, formal supervisory procedures had to be opened against the private operators of the apps, and had to be conducted with some speed to ensure that the public are protected in good time.
Need for transparency
A significant proportion of requests for access to official documents were connected with COVID-19 and were therefore indicated separately in the Annual Report. Aware of the special burden that responding to the pandemic placed on certain federal authorities, the Commissioner, in his mediatory role, called for an extension of deadlines vis-à-vis journalists. On the Commissioner’s recommendation, the Federal Office of Public Health suspended requests for access relating to the procurement of COVID vaccines in order to safeguard Switzerland’s economic interests.
New Data Protection Act on the home straight – challenges increase
The totally revised Federal Data Protection Act of 25 September 2020 and its implementing ordinance are expected to come into force in the second half of 2022. The FDPIC has begun work on the required adaptations (of factsheets, reporting portals, fees, etc.). In view of the constant dynamics of digitalisation, the FDPIC will have to focus his supervisory activities on system-relevant data protection violations by Swiss data processors even after the new law comes into force. In all likelihood, it will be difficult for the FDPIC to meet everyone’s expectations when dealing with individual data protection concerns.
The FDPIC is still awaiting the European Commission's adequacy decision.
The full 28th FDPIC's Annual Report 2020/2021 is available as digital version on www.edoeb.admin.ch
Note for journalists:
The Commissioner, Adrian Lobsiger, together with Caroline Gloor Scheidegger, Head of the International Affairs Division, and Daniel Dzamko, Head of the Data Protection Division, will be available to journalists for interviews. Because of COVID restrictions, no interviews are permitted in the foyer of the Media Centre. Requests for interviews should be sent to the media unit (firstname.lastname@example.org) before the press conference if possible.
Address for enquiries
Media Office FDPIC, Phone 058 464 94 10, email@example.com
Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner