The Data Protection Authority (DPA) of Belgium has forced fines of around €200,000 on two Belgian airports for using thermal cameras to measure travellers’ body temperature at the time of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Brussels Airport Zaventem and Brussels South Airport Charleroi both used thermal cameras to check whether individuals had a temperature of over 38°C at the time of the COVID-19 increase.
In Zaventem, the people with the high temperatures were then given an extra check as well as they also had to fill out a questionnaire about possible symptoms related to the COVID-19 infection. These surveys were then stored.
Moreover, as per the DPA Dispute Chamber, the airports do not have the right to process such kind of “sensitive health data.”
In addition, the Chair of the Dispute Chamber named, Hielke Hijmans, mentioned in the statement, “We understand that firms that have been impacted by the pandemic as well as have had to take unprecedented emergency measures. However, the privacy rules are essential protection for the rights and freedoms of individuals, and must therefore be respected.”
Along with this, the DPA has added that it was doing “its duty” in ensuring that these rules are applied, “Our decision today is all the more important because it can serve as a guide for any similar data processing, whether in the context of the health crisis or not.”
Furthermore, the President of the DPA named David Stevens, “This decision depicts how essential it is to carry out a rigorous & comprehensive data protection impact assessment before implementing any data processing that may pose a risk to individuals.”
However, “The Prevention is better than cure is a principle that also applies in the field of data protection.”
The airports can still appeal against the decision that has been made.