Dubai International Financial Centre and UK government boost data transfer partnership

Move will help business transactions, financial services and inclusion by ensuring safe and effective international data transfers

DIFC Gate building. Courtesy Dubai International Financial Centre Authority
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The Dubai International Financial Centre and the UK government have agreed to boost their partnership on the exchange of data, emphasising on further enhancing its reliability and trustworthiness.

The move will help business transactions, financial services and inclusion by ensuring safe and effective international data transfers, and is set to benefit around 5,000 British companies operating in the UAE, the Dubai Media Office said on Monday.

It cited a joint statement by Arif Amiri, chief executive of the DIFC Authority, and Julia Lopez, the UK's Minister of State for Media, Data and Digital Infrastructure.

The partnership underpins the DIFC's role in ensuring a business environment that is in step with the best standards, with its legal and regulatory framework its "key distinguishing factor", said Mr Amiri, citing DIFC Data Protection Law 2020 as a "prime example".

"The sound infrastructure built by our legislation is adaptable yet resilient enough to cater to essential, innovative legal principles and best practices that support key business activities in the DIFC," he said.

Both the UAE and the UK have strict laws on the use of data, which is essential in ensuring the protection of user data, especially in an era where digital activity has proliferated.

The UAE has enacted a slew of laws for data, including the Personal Data Protection Law, which ensures the confidentiality of information and protects the privacy of individuals in the UAE, providing the proper governance for data management and protection, and defining the rights and duties of all parties.

In 2020, the DIFC Data Protection Law was enforced, which holds controllers and processors of data accountable through compliance programmes, and allows for the appointment of data protection officers where necessary.

The law is a "key part of the overall policy framework on international transfers. We look forward to completing the assessment in the near future", Jacques Visser, chief legal officer and commissioner of data protection at the DIFC, said.

Abu Dhabi Global Market, the emirate's financial capital, enforced Data Protection Regulations 2021 early last year, an updated set of "business-friendly" rules to ensure the safety of personal and confidential data.

The Emirates has also forged similar agreements with major nations. In November, the UAE signed a joint statement with the US on data transmission across borders, stressing the importance of data collection and transmission.

The UK, meanwhile, has Data Protection Act 2018, which controls how personal information is used by organisations, businesses and the government. Those responsible for using personal data has to follow strict rules called "data protection principles", according to the government.

The agreement aims to ensure high data protection standards "fit for the digital age", which are underpinned by the trustworthy use of data, Ms Lopez said.

Cross-border data transfers can help streamline supply chains, which in turn would support businesses scale and trade globally. The partnership between the DIFC and the UK, in particular, will assist companies in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia with ties to the UK to grow their footprint worldwide.

Enhancing the trustworthiness of data transfers can also unlock "huge potential" for trade, investment and innovation around the world, she said.

"The UAE has always been an important destination for UK businesses, and I look forward to strengthening our partnership through the free and secure flow of data in the future."

Updated: December 19, 2022, 10:42 AM