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Italian DPA Urges Employers to Avoid Unlawful Data Collection Following the Spread of Coronavirus

On March 2, 2020, the Italian Data Protection Authority ("Italian DPA") issued a press release providing guidance to employers in relation to the treatment of employees' personal data in the wake of the spreading of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Italy.

The Italian DPA stated that employers are prevented from collecting—in a systematic and generalized manner and also through specific requests to the employee or unlawful investigations—any information relating to the occurrence of flu symptoms among employees or their acquaintances. This is because the assessment and the collection of data on COVID-19 symptoms, as well as on individuals' recent movements, must be managed only by health personnel or other authorities entrusted with those tasks by the Italian Civil Protection Authority.

In the press release, the Italian DPA reinforced both the general duty of all employees to inform their employers of any security risks that might affect the workplace, as well as the recent guidelines issued by the Ministry of Public Administration that require public employees to inform the relevant employer should they come from a "risk area." Moreover, any employee whose work entails close contact with the general public and who had contact with an individual with a suspected case of COVID-19, shall communicate such circumstance to the competent health authority and comply with its instructions. Within such framework, the employer can remind its employees to provide the above-mentioned information to the competent authorities and facilitate that communication by setting up dedicated channels.

The press release also mentioned the general health and safety obligations that apply to all employers such as the duty to communicate to the competent authorities any change in the workplace biological risk deriving from COVID-19, and the duty to carry out health surveillance on employees with the possibility to organize an extraordinary medical visit for the most exposed employees.

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