Norton Rose Fulbright survey examines data privacy issues with COVID-19 contact tracing

Global Business May 2020

Global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright today launched its survey analysing regulatory and policy issues applicable to COVID-19 contact tracing and related tracking technology across 18 jurisdictions.

The global survey explores key issues across Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Indonesia, Russia, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, The Netherlands, Turkey, UAE, UK and US, including:

  • How are governments using technology to monitor and control the spread of COVID-19?
  • What are the major privacy concerns in relation to the utilisation of apps by both governments and private sector organisations?
  • How will the apps collect data and how is the data stored used and shared.

The real-time survey underscores wide divergences in national approaches and highlights key data privacy risks presented by the use of technology to trace COVID-19 infections. In many of the jurisdictions that Norton Rose Fulbright analysed, national authorities have studied the technology and looked at balancing the risk of intruding on their citizens’ privacy against the public health and community benefits that that the use COVID-19 tracing apps may bring.

John Cassell, Calgary-based partner and co-chair of the Canadian data protection, privacy and cybersecurity team, said:

“The province of Alberta has taken the lead as the only jurisdiction in Canada to introduce a COVID-19 tracing app that uses Bluetooth technology with the aim of letting users know if they have been exposed to COVID-19 or similarly exposed others. While the federal and provincial privacy commissioners recently issued a joint statement regarding the development and introduction of mobile contact-tracing apps which set out the fundamental privacy principles that such apps should adhere to, other jurisdictions in Canada are likely watching Alberta’s experience closely to determine not only whether it’s a useful tool in combating the spread of COVID-19 but also that the privacy risks associated with the use of the tracing app have been effectively managed.”

Hong Kong-based partner Anna Gamvros, who heads Norton Rose Fulbright’s Asia Pacific cyber risk practice, commented:

“A clear tension exists between the use of technology as an exit strategy for lockdown and the preservation of data privacy. The way in which individuals’ data is collected and stored is central to this debate. The use of apps which involve the creation of centralised databases may present additional privacy and cybersecurity risks. This debate around the use of apps will become more pronounced if, for example, employers decide to require employees to use contact tracing technologies before returning the office as a measure to ensure the health and safety of their workforce.”

Norton Rose Fulbright helps clients manage legal risks related to cybersecurity, privacy, data governance, eDiscovery, information technology, eCommerce and intellectual property. Read the Norton Rose Fulbright Data Protection Report for analysis of emerging privacy, data protection and cybersecurity issues.


For further information please contact:

Chantal Ouimet, External Communications Manager

Tel: +1 514.847.4349 ;


Partner, Canadian Co-Head of Information Governance, Privacy and Cybersecurity