What is the UAE's new data law?

It is the first federal law to be drafted in partnership with major technology companies

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The UAE's new data law is one of several digital initiatives designed to prepare the country for the future.

It was introduced by the government on Sunday along with a number of other plans, which make up some of the "Projects of the 50" – the UAE's road map for the next half century.

Omar Al Olama, the UAE Minister of State for Digital Economy, AI and Remote Working System, told The National that the new legislation took into consideration "every single data law on the planet", and was the first federal law to be drafted in partnership with major technology companies.

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Individuals have the right to be forgotten... have the right of access... the right to information
Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for Digital Economy, AI and Remote Working System

This, he said, would ensure international companies based in the UAE would not be hindered by local concerns.

"The law is a global law. We wanted to ensure a seamless and smooth transfer across borders. We know that the UAE is home to international companies, so we don't want that to be just a localised law," said Mr Al Olama, who at 30 is one of the UAE's youngest ministers.

"It's a law that has the lowest cost of compliance – we don't want to be a burden on SMEs and we don't want it to be an increased burden on commercial companies."

Data protection has become an issue of concern for many governments and human rights organisations, as digital technology has enabled companies to harvest and store extraordinary amounts of information about people.

Campaigners fear vital items of information such as customer details, transaction records and employee profiles could be misused by third parties for fraudulent purposes.

Mr Al Olama said the UAE data law has been designed to protect the privacy of people and institutions, and limit entities, such as private companies, using personal data for profit.

It also empowers people to control how their personal data is used, stored and shared.

"They have so many rights within this law. Individuals have the right to be forgotten, have the right of access, the right to information," Mr Al Olama said.

The needs of the private sector have also been taken into account and under the legislation companies may monetise personal data, as long as people have given their consent.

"The law reflects our mindset of being a global country, a country that develops companies and scales them up," Mr Al Olama said.

"We don't believe that the role of government is to hinder the prosperity of the economy. We can do our job while allowing the private sector to grow and flourish as well."

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Updated: September 05, 2021, 3:34 PM
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