Published: May 2020

On Jan. 30, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak, which was first detected in Wuhan, China, to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, and, on March 11, it declared COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, to be a pandemic. While many unknowns remain, what can be said with certainty is that the 2019–20 pandemic has already changed social, economic and political realities around the world in profound ways, many of which will take years to fully comprehend.

In addition to the significant human and health costs it has brought about, COVID-19 has led indirectly to an utter transformation of everyday life for most people around the world. The “new normal” is a phrase that has been used during the current crisis to describe newly emerging routines, rituals and rules: sheltering in place; social distancing; a mass shift from a commuter workforce to a remote one; temperature checks at critical entryways and thoroughfares; the increased use of face masks in public spaces; and the replacement of in-person gatherings — from classes to conferences to concerts — by virtual ones.

Considering the rapid and massive changes underway, the IAPP and EY launched a research initiative to gain more insight into the unique ways privacy and data protection practices have been affected by the pandemic. The initial phase of the project included a survey of privacy professionals, taking a deeper look at how organizations, in general, and privacy programs, in particular, are handling the privacy and data protection issues that have emerged alongside COVID-19, such as privacy and security issues related to working from home, monitoring the health of employees, and sharing data with governments, researchers and public health authorities. It also looks at the unique economic impact of the crisis on the privacy profession. A total of 933 respondents completed the survey, and responses were collected between April 8 and 20.