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UAE Project of the 50: New Data Law

This article explains the recent developments relating to UAE’s new ‘Data Law’, introduced as part of the country’s ‘Projects of the 50’ initiatives.

The UAE is celebrating its golden jubilee (50 years as a unified nation), and the ‘Projects of the 50’ initiative is a series of social and economic development projects that the UAE will announce to celebrate the milestone.

The UAE Data Law to be unveiled is part of the first of such projects announced. This new law is the first UAE federal law to be drafted in partnership with major technology companies. As the Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported, the UAE Data Law is intended to empower individuals to control how their personal data is used, stored and shared in order to protect privacy of individuals and institutions and limit entities’ use of personal data for profit.

When UAE Minister for Artificial Intelligence, Omar Al Olama, stated in 2018 that data is the new oil, few would have expected the leaps and bounds by which the prevalence of data and ‘big data’ grew. Now, he states, that the government’s role is not hinder the prosperity of ‘economic accelerators’. Acknowledging that data is vital to businesses, the UAE aims to find a middle ground that does not compromise on privacy/data protection, nor on profitability of companies that rely on data. Minister Al Olama states that the law will enable companies to avoid increased and unreasonable spending on compliance issues, which will enable SMEs and large international companies to thrive.

Ultimately, however, the principal (the person whose data is collected) is expected to have control over whether their data is stored, shared, sold or erased. As announced, this new law includes a right for the principals to access the data stored about them and the right to be forgotten. At the same time, companies that wish to monetise the data can do so with the appropriate consent of the principals.

In a concerted effort to maintain the UAE’s status at the forefront of innovation and development, Minister Al Olama stated that this new UAE Data Law was drafted after considering every single data law on the planet. This ensures a smooth and welcoming transition for international companies setting up in the UAE, avoiding concerns relating to specific and burdensome local requirements and pitfalls that may have existed in other data laws.

This project alone is a remarkable development undertaken by the UAE and is made even more impressive considering that it is part of a much larger ‘Projects of the 50’ initiative. The UAE set a leading example for the world during the COVID-19 pandemic and is now continuing to do so with the projects announced.

Authored by Taronish Mistry

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