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Move to enact data protection law

Published : 18 Mar 2023 02:06 AM | Updated : 18 Mar 2023 03:14 PM

The government is moving forward to enact ‘Data Protection Act (DAP), 2023’ aiming, what it said, to make provisions for providing protection and controlling the matters relating to the processing of data of a person and matters.

The draft of the DPA has been prepared. The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Division of the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology has published the draft on its website for opinions from the stakeholders.  

The draft law proposed to introduce a new independent agency to act as a data protection supervisory authority, called Data Protection Office (DPO). The DPO will act over consent requirements, data subject rights, data localisation requirements, and rules on cross-border data transfers. 

It was said in the preamble of the draft that it is necessary to make provisions as to collection, processing, storage, use or reuse, transfer, disclosure, destruction of and related matters. It is also necessary to establish a controlling authority under the existing administrative process, and to supervise and monitor the data being processed. 

Earlier, in March last year, the ICT Division had published the preliminary draft for the first time on its website for public opinion. Several drafts have been developed since then. 

Opinions on the proposed law have been taken from several organisations, human rights agencies, different high commissions and financial institutions. Many expressed concerns over some provisions of the draft.

Law Minister Anisul Huq and State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak on Tuesday (March 14) held a meeting with representatives of civil society regarding different points of the Digital Security Act (DSA) and the proposed Data Protection Act (DPA). 

Although they met with representatives of civil society to discuss the two laws, they could not begin the discussion on the DPA. However, they also could not complete the discussion on DSA. 

Against this backdrop, the Law Minister and the State Minister for ICT are scheduled to hold another meeting only on DSA on March 30. They will sit for DPA on April 6 at the conference room of the law ministry.  

“Since there has been a new draft of the Data Protection Act and it was uploaded on the website on Tuesday, the day when the meeting was held, the representatives of civil society did not get time to see the DPA draft. That is why they reached this decision through mutual discussion that they will sit on April 6 to discuss on DPA,” Dr Md Rezaul Karim, senior information officer of the law ministry, told Bangladesh Post. 

Reviewing the new draft, a lawyer said that the draft of DPA is still too restrictive despite it has been uploaded on the website of ICT Division following several developments. The definition of data is still not clear. The draft law poorly defines the classification of data and does not follow the international standards to define privacy. The government should bring some changes in the draft, he opined. 

CR Abrar, a professor of International Relations dept at Dhaka University said that after being subjected to the unmitigated abuse of the DSA, and likelihood of misapplication of the undefined terms and draconian clauses that the proposed DPA draft, questions may be raised about proposed law. 

According to the new draft of DPA, the director general will have the authority to order the people affiliated with data processing and other people concerned to provide him with any data he needs. It means that the government can get any data whenever it wants. However, no one can file any complaint to the court directly if his or her right to privacy is violated.

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