The threat to global health caused by Covid-19 has led to unprecedented collaboration from the global scientific research community to urgently develop a vaccine. Given the prevalence of data sharing and open science, combined with the sensitive nature of the data involved, data protection concerns have quickly emerged.
The GDPR provides special rules for processing health data for scientific research purposes that are also applicable in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) recently published Guidelines 03/2020 on the processing of data concerning health for scientific research purposes in the context of Covid-19. The EDPB acknowledges the challenges faced by researchers operating with urgency, and using health data that is not always obtained directly from the data subject for the specific purpose of scientific research. The guidelines provide clarity on issues such as: the legal basis for processing health data; data subjects’ rights, and how health data can be lawfully transferred to a third country outside the EEA for scientific research purposes connected to the Covid-19 pandemic.