May 27, 2020

The world is different today than it was just a few short months ago due to the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic. It has changed the way we live, work and socialise. It has also presented world leaders and business leaders with challenges which would have been incomprehensible just a few short months ago.

One of the most pertinent of those issues is how to get people back to work, and everyone back to their day-to-day activities safely. This comes at a time when economies are struggling and many industries -such as travel – warning of imminent collapse – while on the other hand, there are almost five million confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide and counting.

Thermal Imaging Cameras offer a way to claw back some semblance of normality by allowing offices, retailers, leisure spaces and other types of public space to detect individuals with a high fever (one of the symptoms of COVID-19) even as other symptoms may take up to 10 days to appear. But, there are of course considerations to work through when installing any kind of camera or surveillance device in a public or private place.

Privacy considerations and thermal cameras

One of the major factors governing the use of thermal cameras is GDPR. The data protection legislation has a special categories clause which deals with how sensitive data, including an individual’s personal health details, are obtained, held and processed.

As thermal cameras can be used to detect elevated body temperature, and then used to deny entry to a space and potentially require a coronavirus test to be administered, those operating the camera could be considered to hold health information about the individual. If a scan was carried out and no additional test was processed, then it could be that no sensitive health data has been obtained but, when signs of a fever are present and a test recommended, special requirements could be brought into play in order to safeguard personal and private data.

Art. 9(2) lit. a GDPR

Article 9 of GDPR relates to consent and allows for data processing to be carried out where the individual concerned has given their approval. This consent must be given voluntarily – such as in a written and oral manner. This could be achieved if you plan to use thermal imaging cameras to safeguard your property by informing all visitors of the presence of this technology and confirming they consent to being scanned if they proceed to enter the building.

GDPR does allow for the processing of sensitive data – such as health data- in circumstances where it is carried out for the benefit of public health. This largely covers events such as cross-border travel so for example, at airports or land borders.

Under GDPR regulations, processing is also permitted for “health security, monitoring and alert purposes, the prevention or control of communicable diseases and other serious threats to health.

Thermavis recommend that organisations:

  • Make it clear thermal scanning is taking place
  • Allow right of access to retained personal data for those scanned if requested
  • Have a policy in place for deleting of information after a certain period
  • Ensure only authorised persons have access to long term data storage
  • Long-term storage of data should be in an encrypted manner where possible

 Thermavis Products Considerations.

Thermavis product have the ability to disable data storage of the thermal screening images. The devices are also customisable to only record elevated skin temperature triggered events. Data stored on Thermavis devices can be deleted directly from the device, or downloaded to USB for long term encrypted archive storage. 

Thermavis devices do not need an internet connection to operate, nor do they store or transfer any data to any cloud, or online data storage facility.

Thermavis products make pictures from heat, not visible light. Heat (also called infrared, or thermal, energy) and light are both parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, but a camera that can detect visible light won't see thermal energy, and vice versa. Thermavis products do not take or store pictures from visable light, only infra-red spectrum. Therefore the ability to directly identify a subject from this thermal image only is limited, please see some real life examples below.


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