Data, the world’s most valuable resource, can also be a business’s biggest burden, and a barrier to accessing global markets.
A recent webinar hosted by the student cyber club at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, ID Cyber, explored why Israeli businesses that take privacy and data protection seriously are more likely to enjoy international success. Led by Avishai Ostrin (Head of Privacy and Data Protection at Asserson) and Noam Herold (CEO of cyber consulting firm Cyberlynx), this next generation of cyber professionals was left with practical considerations for a post-pandemic reality.
GDPR compliance opens opportunities
qSince its launch two years ago, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation ("GDPR") has set a new, global benchmark for data security and data use. "Successful companies understand that GDPR compliance is good business - if you can sell in the EU, you can sell virtually anywhere," explains Ostrin.
With a deeply-rooted notion that the protection of personal data is a fundamental human right, GDPR and an individual’s right to privacy have prevailed over the "common good" and public health in the EU’s fight against COVID-19. The general consensus is that GDPR provides a framework adaptable enough for governments to navigate the crisis whilst adhering to the legislation. GDPR regulators have been extremely quick to respond to potential privacy conflicts and to criticize countries that deviate from the relatively recent regulation. Hungary, for example, has come under heavy fire from the EU for its decision to suspend certain rights under GDPR because of COVID-19, and has been criticized for taking "the easy way out" of the crisis by putting fundamental liberties to one side. Since the start of the pandemic alone, privacy infringements have resulted in substantial fines. In one such claim, dated February 2020, the Spanish authorities fined a hospital €48,000 following a complaint by a citizen who was required to fill in a form which was incompatible with GDPR.
COVID-19 has widened the gap between Israeli and EU standards
For a country so renowned in the cyber field, Israel's privacy laws are surprisingly (even embarrassingly) outdated, despite new orders made in 2017 which helped Israel maintain its GDPR adequacy status. Whilst the acceptance of Israeli privacy laws by the EU is good news for Israeli businesses, COVID-19 has somewhat intensified the pre-existing challenges with data protection and data security in Israel.
In contrast to the heavy involvement of regulators in the EU at this time, the Israeli government bypassed both the Knesset and the Israeli Privacy Authority (Israel’s key regulatory authority) to approve emergency measures which allow the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) to monitor the mobile phones of coronavirus patients. Though many world governments have urged their citizens to download apps to trace the spread of infections, this move to mandate mobile phone tracking has no parallel in other democracies. Privacy watchdog groups, concerned that Israel’s decision to effectively turn terrorist surveillance methods on itself, have challenged the practice in court, warning of the slippery slope to becoming a "surveillance state".
The lesson to be learned: it would be a mistake for Israeli businesses to assume that Israel’s approach to privacy in the COVID-era reflects those in other jurisdictions. Despite increasing globalization, data-transfers between countries at the speed of light, and data-storage in the cloud, privacy and its regulatory issues have always been local to each country. Now more than ever, as the gap in privacy standards widens between borders, it is vital for companies wanting to exploit the global markets to adopt a global approach to privacy.
With thanks to IDCyber, a multi-disciplinary, student-led society which connects key issues faced in cyberspace to other industries, for hosting the event.
Syvanne Aloni is a paralegal at Asserson Law Offices, an international law firm in Tel Aviv.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on June 22, 2020
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