AG: Changes coming to data protection laws

Faris Al-Rawi
Faris Al-Rawi

ATTORNEY General Faris Al-Rawi said the Cambridge Analytica (CA) scandal provides the perfect lesson as to how data can be misused for nefarious purposes.

In making this point during the virtual UN Big Data Forum on Tuesday, Al-Rawi also disclosed that Government intends to strengthen data protection legislation next year.

He said the scandal was an exercise "of micro-targeting, and data harvesting from big data and small data was implemented by a group of companies associated with CA."

Recalling his interaction with entities such as the US Justice Department and the FBI on this issue, Al-Rawi said CA whistleblower Christopher Wylie was interviewed by separate committees of the British House of Commons and the US Senate. Wylie had claimed people's personal data was being used by the former PP government for political purposes.

Al-Rawi said this matter later evolved into civil litigation against Facebook "for the utilisation or failure to protect, in the data harvesting and micro-targeting arrangements which for many people seem to be quite innocuous."

While some people regard their likes and dislikes on Facebook as insignificant, Al-Rawi countered that other people consider them very valuable information. He also said data on people's personal preferences on TikTok, YouTube and NetFlix could be similarly abused.

Government, Al-Rawi continued, is currently reviewing "our data protection act, privacy protection rules and the general principles that prevail in other jurisdictions."

Saying the objective is to mke the legislation more principle-oriented and less technologically specific, Al-Rawi said, "That's not going to be a long product. We anticipate in the first quarter of 2021 to move certain amendments to the legislation."

He added that the position of information commissioner, which the legislation allows, "is expected to be filled with immediacy."

Drawing comparisions between private and public spaces, Al-Rawi explained that a person cannot commit an offence in a public space and then claim the right to privacy. He observed that in many countries "privacy protection principles are in a state of flux right now, largely because, technology is fast outstripping legislation."

Referring to TT's experiences with the Financial Action Task Force, European Union and European Commission on financial services regulation, Al-Rawi said there should be a common standard for dealing with issues such data protection, and the UN could assist in this effort. Stressing that trust was critical in how data is used, Al-Rawi said, "In default of the traditional laws or the statuory laws that are technologically specific, we can always reside from a trust principle on the general rules of the common law."

On Government's digitisation thrust, Al-Rawi said the proposed National Statistics Institute. which will replace the Central Statistical Office, will play an important role in data extrapolation from the public and private sectors.


"AG: Changes coming to data protection laws"

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