December 21, 2022

Data protection laws in the UAE: ways to comply

Data protection laws in the UAE: ways to comply

The United Arab Emirates is known as a business-friendly environment with predictable laws, but only recently was comprehensive federal legislation enacted for data protection. Global software service companies are bound by these data residency and localization laws.

This new legislation provides a comprehensive legal framework for data controlling and processing in many sectors, including health, manufacturing, cybersecurity, 

This article extensively studies the data protection provisions applicable in the UAE and methods to achieve compliance.

Who should be aware of data protection laws in the UAE?

In a nutshell, all organizations involved in data management — collection, processing, storage, disposal — must be on terms with the UAE Data Protection Laws.

Entities that handle customer data include but are not limited to e-commerce companies, banks,  subscription services, healthcare providers, government agencies, and educational institutions.

Data protection laws mainly target SaaS companies because the nature of their services always requires personal information from their users through subscriptions or other forms of registration.

According to UAE laws, software developers, data analysts, database administrators, IT personnel, and citizens must understand and take proactive steps to maintain data privacy and integrity.

What UAE data protection laws do you need to know

Ignorance of data protection laws is no excuse for breaking them. Individuals and corporations doing business in the UAE do themselves a great disservice if they fail to keep up with the UAE’s general data protection laws.

By being aware of the laws, companies do themselves a favor. They evade monetary losses that could result in damages for non-compliance, and they avoid the risk of losing customer loyalty.

Thus, relevant companies must take necessary steps to protect their data, the data of customers, and the data protection and privacy rights of each party, according to the UAE.

Below are some of the essential data protection laws in the UAE:

The law stipulates that any health-related information must be regarded as sensitive and, therefore, must be carefully handled in order to keep it uncompromised.

The Act codifies the right of UAE residents to choose how their health data is collected, used, stored, and shared with others. It also provides an avenue of legal recourse for complaints arising from the mismanagement of personal data.

The Act is suited to the dynamic data protection concerns that arise with the use of digital technology.

The statutory body charged with monitoring compliance with the provisions of the Act is the Health Data Regulatory Authority. They ensure that all stakeholders, such as data holders and data processors, always adhere to the laws.

The new UAE data protection law is a groundbreaking piece of legislation that strives to ensure the privacy and security of all personal data collected within the country. This law brings the nation in line with international standards for data protection and offers citizens and residents of the UAE a legally-protected right to privacy online.

The data privacy law in UAE applies to both legal and natural persons and encompasses a wide range of topics and obligations related to personal data protection. These areas include, but are not limited to, data collection and usage, data security, data retention, subject access requests, data transfers, data privacy impact assessments, children’s data, and consent management.

The law introduces several significant changes to data protection in the UAE. For example, it requires controllers and processors of personal data to adopt appropriate technical and organizational measures to ensure the security of such information.

The UAE Federal Law No. 45 of 2021 on the Protection of Personal Data provides clear and comprehensive data protection rules and establishes the foundation for a safe and secure digital environment. This, in turn, will give citizens and residents of the UAE a greater sense of control, security, and trust in online activities.

This is a comprehensive piece of data protection legislation that provides a framework to protect the interests of individuals and organizations in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).

It establishes clear duties and responsibilities concerning the collection, use, and disclosure by entities operating within the DIFC. This personal data protection law of UAE enlightens on the basic principles of data privacy and protection, such as transparency, accountability, and security. It applies to any data collected in the DIFC, both manually or electronically.

The ADGM Data Protection Regulations apply to personal data processing within the ADGM. It adopts principles similar to those established in the DIFC Law and the Data Protection Law, with additional specific provisions that give more guidance on how to comply with them.

Our Data Localisation by InCountry guide is a helpful tool for companies to familiarise themselves with data protection laws in the UAE.

Read this article if you want to learn more about Middle Eastern data residency.

Cross-border transfer rules in the UAE

The UAE Data Protection Law (UDPL) outlines the rules for cross-border data transfer within and outside the UAE. The data residency requirements by country and the UDPL apply to employers, government-run entities, and even individuals who are engaged in processing personal data. The UDPL sets out the framework for protecting personal data and imposes restrictions on how personal data is collected, stored, and used by organizations.

  • Under the UDPL, organizations must obtain the necessary data subject consent if they are planning to transfer personal data to data controllers and processors in other jurisdictions.
  • Organizations must ensure the data being transferred is adequately secured and that the data transfer agreement contains specific clauses prohibiting the transfer of data if the receiving country has inadequate data protection laws or data security practices.
  • Organizations must also describe the purpose of the transfer and a description of the destination countries. The destination country must be chosen based on the data being transferred, the purpose of the transfer, and the applicable laws of the country receiving the personal data.
  • Organizations must also ensure that any personal data that is transferred is for a legitimate, lawful purpose and is in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.
  • All organizations are expected to adhere to the rules and regulations governing the processing and transferring of personal data in the UAE. Failure to comply with these rules can result in hefty fines and other penalties.

Cross-border data transfer is seen as an area of consumer protection and security concerns; therefore, the UDPL provides UAE organizations with an effective and protective data protection regulatory framework.

How to comply with data protection laws in the UAE – InCountry’s approach

Data compliance can be a lengthy, rigorous, and never-ending process for SaaS companies. It may involve several steps like keeping up to date with the letter of tedious data protection laws and best practices, training employees to be data compliant, a constant review of the privacy policy, use of industry-accepted measures like encryption, and constant updating of software — the list is endless.

While these steps are helpful, more than they may be required to attain absolute data compliance, where even the slightest mistake can have dire consequences. Not to mention the amount of time and expense these processes often consume.

InCountry provides a comprehensive solution to data compliance problems. Here are some examples:

  • InCountry offers data residency-as-a-service to more than 90 countries across the world. This means you can comply with data protection laws in the UAE and other countries simultaneously without having to build your full stack every time.
  • InCountry provides a certified cloud infrastructure to manage regulated data according to the localization laws in the UAE. Localization laws in each country.
  • InCountry also provides military-grade security standards to nip data breach incidents in the bud. We use high-level data encryption (AES 256), firewalling, network isolation, intrusion detection,  and other measures to keep your data secure from unauthorized access. 

With these solutions and many more, complying with data regulations in UAE is simplified for your company. Contact our experts to learn how InCountry can help you to comply with the UAE data protection laws.