Sent to subscribers in May 2020

As I am writing this note, the global tsunami effect of the Coronavirus is shaking, affecting, or perhaps destroying public health, businesses, work life, and family reunions. COVID-19 news and the defense against the Coronavirus have become the central part of our daily preoccupations. The outbreak and spreading of the virus on a global scale present challenging issues to which a significant number of public and private entities appear to have been ill-prepared.

While most of the updates to the chapters that are part of this Supplement #32 were written at a time when the threat and global effects of the virus in a particular country were not yet felt or anticipated, some of our contributors were living and working in difficult conditions under strict lockdown orders.

Special thanks to Marissa Xiao Dong and Guo Jinghe (China) and Raffaele Zallone (Italy) for producing their country updates while their respective countries and healthcare systems were deeply shaken by the effect of the destructive contagion. They worked on their country updates during their respective “lockdown,” “confinement,” “self-isolation,” or “retrenchment” periods. Thank you for your team spirit and the gift of your time in such dramatic circumstances.

The seriousness and intensity of the attack on people’s health and the dramatic consequences for countries’ healthcare ecosystems have significant business and legal implications involving almost every possible area: advertising, admiralty, bankruptcy, children, commercial, contracts, education, employment, health, insurance, telecommunications, telemarketing, torts, trademarks, trade secrets, and much more.

Privacy and information security are among the legal and practical issues to take into account. Privacy is highly vulnerable in a time  when public health concerns may not be consistent with personal interest or civil liberties. Consider, for example, the civil rights concerns related to the collection of location data to track the path of the virus.

Most existing privacy and data protection laws do not address, or only at the highest level, how to handle personal information in case of a major event. How much information should be disclosed when an employer faces the fact that one employee has been infected? Who should be provided with the information? When looking at the interests of the community, providing transparency and disclosing the details of the effect of the virus may help save lives. Collecting or sharing personal details that may allow tracking an individual’s whereabout might help identify useful information or trends that help fight against the spread of the virus but also opens the door to monitoring and surveillance and provides a means of encroaching on civil liberties, the future effect of which might not be stopped.

Significant security concerns are also at the forefront. The quarantine or isolation strategies require businesses and government agencies to send their personnel home to be shielded from contagion. While they help reduce the risk of infection, these strategies may put at risk the security shield that protects files and data. What level of security is provided to the confidential or strategic business records or the highly sensitive personal information that are now processed on a family computer, on the proverbial “kitchen table”? How is the security of the information preserved? What is the level of awareness of the potential risks to the confidentiality and security of all the contracts, reports, customer lists that are transferred among co-workers, or between a worker and the company’s headquarters where internal measures, physical and technical security might be lacking or deficient, and there is little experience or training on how to protect the company’s crown jewels, or those of its clients or customer?

I hope that our next Supplement will be produced in less dramatic and concerning circumstances.

Keep safe! Keep healthy!