Parish councils across the County are doing some fantastic work in engaging with those in their communities and helping to organise teams of volunteers etc. As matters to some extent ‘settle down’, one or two are, understandably, beginning to reflect upon some of the implications of actions undertaken with appropriate urgency which may have not paid heed to nominal Data Protection requirements.
In particular, there may be some shortcomings in respect of the consent for use of personal data. It is, therefore, perhaps timely to reflect upon such responsibilities.
In the unlikely event that a Parish Council is challenged about the use of personal data without consent having formally been obtained in recent weeks, the following statement, issued by the Information Commissioner as long ago as 12th March, should alleviate any concerns,
We all share the same concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The need for public bodies and health practitioners to be able to communicate directly with people when dealing with this type of health emergency has never been greater.
Data protection and electronic communication laws do not stop Government, the NHS or any other health professionals from sending public health messages to people, either by phone, text or email as these messages are not direct marketing. Nor does it stop them using the latest technology to facilitate safe and speedy consultations and diagnoses. Public bodies may require additional collection and sharing of personal data to protect against serious threats to public health.
The ICO is a reasonable and pragmatic regulator, one that does not operate in isolation from matters of serious public concern. Regarding compliance with data protection, we will take into account the compelling public interest in the current health emergency.
The safety and security of the public remains our primary concern. The ICO and our colleagues in the public sector have this at the forefront of our minds at this time. We are here to help our colleagues on the frontline. We can offer advice to make sure the law around data protection and direct marketing is clear. Information is available on our website or you can call our helpline on 0303 123 1113.