Access to and Ownership of Data to Tackle Covid-19: Some Lessons (IP) Law Should Learn for Good

The fight against the coronavirus needs (big) data to orient decision making and healthcare policies. Researchers, private organizations, and non-research public bodies process large amounts of (non-personal) data which can tackle the pandemic in various ways. These datasets proved crucial to address issues of public interest such as the Covid-19 pandemic (‘privately & publicly collected data’, ‘PPCD’). During the Covid19 crisis, two main tendencies have emerged in this respect. On the one hand, those data management systems resting on (access) barriers that restrict data access. Conversely, an alternative data management system is founded on open data access approaches valuing data availability amongst a wide number of actors.

This contribution aims to describe and assess the two data management systems concerning SRD and PPCD. Accordingly, it concludes with some policy arguments on the role of IP and other areas of law as to fostering data access for public interest purposes.

Keeping the internet safe during the pandemic – COVID-19 and the rise of cybercrime: who is monitoring the situation? (crime)

With COVID19, an increasing number of people are working from home and spending time online. Thus, Member States had to face, not only the virus, but also cybercriminals. Whilst, cybercrime did not appear with the virus, the virus did however offer more opportunities for cybercriminals to exploit the situation and take advantage of the vulnerabilities and fear of individuals. In Czech Republic, the Brno University Hospital was hit by a cyberattack, which forced the hospital to shut down its entire IT network and to postpone urgent interventions. In Germany, national health authorities were victims of a scam when buying face masks. In France, phishing attacks have seen an increase of more than 600% between end-February and end-March. The present contribution aims at shedding light on the impact of the Coronavirus on cybercrime and fundamental rights. It inquires whether Covid19 might constitute an opportunity for change and alerts to the dangers of the full digitalization of society.

Tracing Transparency: Public Governance of Algorithms and the Experience of Contact Tracing Apps

In addressing the pandemic, contact tracing has been one of the most effective tools used worldwide. The use of these apps has caused several concerns, especially with regard to the protection of the privacy of individuals. While opinions largely differed with regard to the best technological solution to adopt, everybody agreed on the importance of one specific requirement: their full transparency. The idea that transparency can constitute a valid safeguard for the correct, secure and lawful use of digital applications is then analyzed as a constitutional value to uphold. This work aims at investigating how transparency has been translated from theory to practice and follows its constitutionalization process in a post-pandemic world. It finally asks whether there is anything one can learn from the experience with contact tracing apps in order to create a suitable model for the public governance of algorithms.

Where were the DPAs when the pandemic broke out? The role of the EDPB , the EDPS and national supervisory authorities during the crisis (data)

The institutions principally responsible for monitoring the compliance with Article 8 of the CFREU and the GDPR are national supervisory authorities (DPAs), called by the Court of Justice of the European Union “guardians of the fundamental right to data protection”. In order to ensure the consistent application of the GDPR they shall cooperate with each other within the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) and the Commission. This paper aims to explain to what extent they participated in the adoption of COVID-19-related surveillance measures and actively contributed to the protection of constitutional rights. Were they consistent in their positions on governments’ actions? What was the role of the EDPB in that regard? What does the way the DPAs reacted to the EU-wide restrictions to the fundamental right to personal data tell about their role as quasi-ombudsmen in the post-pandemic world?

Brave New (Normal) World: Facial Recognition Technology during and after the COVID-19 health emergency

The fact that COVID-19 health emergency requires social distancing, quarantine, or even lockdown makes it necessary to develop and deploy tools that can monitor and track the effectiveness of such measurements against what has been called ‘syndromic surveillance'. One of the top technologies in that regard has been Facial Recognition Technology (FRT). Across the world, FRT has been implemented to identify quarantine ‘violators’ and, along with temperature detection technology, to categorize whether people may be infected or not. However, this widespread implantation has given rise to a vast concern over the privacy implications of FRT systems. Additionally, some voices claimed that once deployed, the technology will be difficult to withdraw. Consequently, this paper aims to ascertain whether the COVID-19 health crisis can serve as an excuse to increase the surveillance state and inquires over the constitutional limits to the use of such technology in a post-Covid19 landscape.

The New Providers on the Block: How Big Tech Have Seized Covid19 as an Opportunity to Ascertain Power

The Covid-19 crisis has brought profound changes in every aspect of life. This paper looks at the post-Covid world as an opportunity, arguing that Covid-19 constituted an ideal event for Big Tech to ascertain power and obtain a new type of legitimacy in the global sphere.
The work conducts a case analysis of these companies in a structured manner looking at three dimensions of the pandemic: i) health disinformation, by looking at the impact of Facebook/Twitter on the regulation of free speech; ii) financial support to communities, analyzing Facebook’s recovery fund and Google’s advertisement credit program; iii) the control of digital app markets, analyzing how Google and Apple exercised their power in shaping health tracing apps.
The clash of legitimacies, between classic public power and digital private communities, will be discussed as the single most important feature of a post-Covid world, whereby communities start to gradually rely on Big Tech to address public needs.