Last week, the Thomson Reuters Foundation convened leading civil society organizations and expert law firms for a virtual working group on protecting data and digital rights during the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was hosted in collaboration with human rights non-profit Access Now, as well as the expert law firms Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP and Goodwin Procter LLP.
Amidst the public and private sector response to COVID-19, some new measures to fight the disease taken by governments and other actors have raised crucial questions regarding data and digital rights. As part of the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s ongoing focus on fostering Inclusive Economies, the virtual working group brought together NGOs and legal experts to discuss civil societies’ potential need for legal research to support their advocacy work.
Natalia Krapiva, Tech Legal Counsel at Access Now, said: “[The] COVID-19 pandemic represents an unprecedented crisis requiring unprecedented measures from governments. However, the role of the civil society and the legal community is to make sure that those measures are designed, implemented, and enforced in accordance with the law.”
Participating organizations included NGOs from Chile, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, and the United States, alongside legal experts. Following the virtual working group, attendees have the opportunity to partner and carry out legal research projects together, through TrustLaw, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global legal pro bono service.
Jacqueline Klosek, Counsel at Goodwin Procter LLP, said: “For decades, we have helped clients in business and government to navigate difficult privacy issues. We feel it is important to draw upon our expertise and experience in contributing to the response to the unprecedented challenges that COVID-19 has brought to our global community.”
Heather Egan Sussman, Partner at Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, added: “As a leading adviser to companies in all sectors of the economy on cyber, privacy and data innovation, we understand the importance of designing for privacy from the outset.”
Flavie Fuentes, Legal Manager for North America & the Caribbean for TrustLaw, said: “With data and digital rights at the heart of the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s work, we felt the urge to gather experts, both from the legal and civil society sides, to discuss the current challenges posed by the fight against COVID-19 and pin down how the skills of our incredible pro bono legal community can help protect fundamental rights such as privacy and personal data protection.”
TrustLaw: If your organisation is interested in receiving pro bono legal advice or if you’re a law firm interested in developing your pro bono work, please sign up to TrustLaw membership here.
COVID-19 Response: As the world faces an unprecedented set of challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Thomson Reuters Foundation is leveraging its unique blend of journalism and legal skills to strengthen the global response. Read more about the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s response here.