Digital and Data Protection Legal Services in Saudi Arabia

Data Protection Legal Services in Saudi Arabia

Digital and Data Protection Legal Services in Saudi Arabia: In an era defined by the exponential growth of digital technologies, data has become the lifeblood of businesses across all industries. However, with great data comes great responsibility. The need for robust legal frameworks to govern the collection, storage, processing, and sharing of data has never been more critical. In Saudi Arabia, a country undergoing rapid digital transformation, understanding the legal landscape surrounding digital and data protection is paramount for businesses to thrive while ensuring compliance with the law.

Introduction to Digital and Data Protection in Saudi Arabia

The digital and data protection in Saudi Arabia include the followings:

  • Digital Transformation in Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia is actively pursuing digital transformation as part of its Vision 2030 agenda, aiming to diversify its economy beyond oil. This shift towards digitalization encompasses various sectors, driving innovation and efficiency while posing new challenges for data protection and privacy.
  • Legal Framework of Digital & Data Protection in KSA: The cornerstone of data protection in Saudi Arabia is the Personal Data Protection Law (PDPL) enacted in 2019. This comprehensive legislation imposes obligations on data controllers and processors regarding the collection, processing, and transfer of personal data. Additionally, the Cybersecurity Law and regulations issued by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) complement the PDPL, addressing cybersecurity and electronic transactions.
  • Future Outlook for Digital & Data Protection in KSA: With rapid advancements in technology such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, the legal landscape surrounding digital and data protection is expected to evolve. Policymakers will likely adapt regulations to address emerging challenges and ensure the continued protection of individuals’ privacy rights amidst the ongoing digital transformation.

Personal Data Protection Law in Saudi Arabia

Data Protection

The Personal Data Protection Law (PDPL) in Saudi Arabia was issued in accordance with Royal Decree No. (M/19) dated 16-09-2021 (09/02/1443 AH) and amended by Royal Decree No. (M/148) dated 27-03-2023 (05/09/1444 AH), a comprehensive legislation designed to safeguard individuals’ privacy rights and regulate the processing of personal data. The PDPL in Saudi Arabia applies to data controllers and processors, outlining their obligations regarding data collection, processing, storage, and transfer.

What is Personal Data and its Processing under Personal Data Protection Law (PDPL) in KSA?

Personal Data: Data, irrespective of its origin or format, which could facilitate the identification of an individual directly or indirectly, including but not limited to name, personal identification number, addresses, contact numbers, license numbers, records, personal assets, bank and credit card numbers, as well as photographs and videos depicting an individual, along with any other personally identifiable information.

Processing of Personal Data: Any activity performed on Personal Data, utilizing any method, whether manual or automated, encompassing collection, recording, preservation, indexing, organization, formatting, storage, alteration, updating, consolidation, retrieval, utilization, disclosure, transmission, publication, sharing, linking, blocking, deletion, and disposal of data.

Enforcement of PDPL: The Personal Data Protection Law (PDPL) was enforced on 14 September 2023, but in practical enforcement activities are anticipated to commence by mid-September 2024 due to an additional one-year transition compliance period mentioned in its preambles. 

Scope of PDPL: The PDPL has a broad extra-territorial scope, applying to any processing of personal data within the Kingdom, as well as to the processing of personal data of individuals located in the Kingdom by organizations outside of it. The Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) will initially serve as the competent authority to enforce the PDPL.

Provisions of Personal Data Protection Law in Saudi Arabia

Key provisions of the PDPL include:

  1. Consent: Data controllers must obtain explicit consent from individuals before processing their personal data. Consent should be informed, specific, and freely given.
  2. Purpose Limitation: Data can only be processed for specified, legitimate purposes and must not be further processed in a manner incompatible with those purposes.
  3. Data Minimization: Data controllers are required to collect only the minimum amount of personal data necessary for the intended purpose.
  4. Data Security: Measures must be implemented to ensure the security and confidentiality of personal data, protecting it against unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration, or destruction.
  5. Data Transfer: Cross-border transfer of personal data is subject to restrictions, necessitating adequate safeguards to ensure the protection of data when transferred outside Saudi Arabia.

Penalties for non-compliance with the PDPL in Saudi Arabia

There are various penalties fixed for non-compliance with the Personal Data Protection Law (PDPL) in Saudi Arabia, such as:  

  • Violations of the PDPL may result in fines of up to 5 million Riyals (approximately $1.3 million), with the potential to double for repeat offenses.
  • Certain disclosures of sensitive personal data in violation of the PDPL can lead to imprisonment for up to two years if the disclosure was intended to harm the data subject or to achieve personal benefit. This poses a significant risk to doing business in Saudi Arabia. It remains unclear which individuals may face imprisonment if a legal entity is responsible for the violation.
  • Warnings.
  • SDAIA has the authority to “seize the means or tools used in committing a violation” until a decision is reached. Additionally, a competent court may order the “confiscation of funds obtained as a result of committing the violations.”
  • Any party that suffers “material or moral damage” due to a violation may seek proportionate compensation from a competent court.

Cybersecurity Laws in Saudi Arabia

Data Protection Legal Services in Saudi Arabia

In addition to the PDPL, there are cybersecurity laws in Saudi Arabia. The objective of the laws is to  protect critical information infrastructure and combating cyber threats. Two key legal instruments regulate cybersecurity in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, these are: 

  1. The Royal Decree that established the National Cybersecurity Authority.
  2. The Anti-Cybercrimes Law

The National Cybersecurity Authority in Saudi Arabia

The National Cybersecurity Authority (NCA) in Saudi Arabia was created by Royal Decree No. 6801 on October 31, 2017, and amended by Royal Decree No. 7053 on September 9, 2021. Its primary objective is to safeguard the Kingdom’s cybersecurity infrastructure by issuing guidelines and frameworks. The NCA is also empowered to draft a national cybersecurity strategy to address current and future cybersecurity threats.

According to the National Cybersecurity Authority’s official website, the latest regulatory tools govern various fields including:

  • Cybersecurity Responsibilities, 
  • Strategy Formulation, 
  • Malware Protection, 
  • Email and Network Security, 
  • Web Application Protection, 
  • User Device Security, 
  • Workstations, 
  • Mobile Devices, 
  • Security Vulnerability Assessments, 
  • Data Security, 
  • Operational Technology/Industrial Control Systems (OT/ICS), 
  • Social Media Security, and 
  • Virtualization Security.

The Anti-Cybercrimes Law in Saudi Arabia

Objective of Anti-Cybercrimes Law: The Anti-Cybercrimes Law aims to prevent activities classified as cybercrimes and imposes various criminal penalties on individuals who violate its provisions. These penalties are the followings:

1. The law penalizes any individual with up to one year of imprisonment and/or a fine not exceeding 500,000 Saudi Riyals (approximately US$133,210) for committing the following acts:

  • Cybercrimes like hacking, intercepting, or illegally receiving data transmitted through an information network or computer without authorization.
  • Accessing private data of an individual or company without authorization with the intent to blackmail another person.
  • Accessing  another person or company’s websites without authorization, or hacking a website to alter its design, destroy or modify it, or occupy its URL.
  • Invading privacy of an individual or group of individuals through the misuse of camera-equipped mobile phones.
  • Defaming and causing harm to others using various information technology devices.

(These actions are punishable under Article 3 of the Anti-Cybercrimes Law of Saudi Arabia.)

2. The law prescribes up to 3 years of imprisonment and/or a fine of 2 million Saudi Riyals (approximately US$532,835) for illegally accessing another person’s bank or credit information or data related to the ownership of securities. (Anti-Cybercrimes Law Article 5.)

3. Finally, the Anti-Cybercrimes law imposes up to 3 years of imprisonment and/or a fine of 3 million Saudi Riyals (approximately US$799,250) for committing any of the following cyber related acts:

  • Accessing another’s information network without authorization to cancel, delete, destroy, leak, damage, alter, or redistribute private information.
  • Causing another’s information network to freeze or break down.
  • Destroying, deleting, leaking, damaging, or altering others’ existing or used programs or data.
  • Impeding access to an information network of others.
  • Altering other’s data without authorization.
  • Causing another person’s information network to break down to disrupt public services.

(These actions are punishable under the Anti-Cybercrimes Law of Saudi Arabia Article 6.)

Fahad Al Tamimi Digital and Data Protection Legal Services in Saudi Arabia

The technology and data regulation in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East is rapidly evolving. Fahad Al Tamimi Law Firm’s dedicated digital and data related team of lawyers operates throughout the region, often being the first to be informed about developments in this dynamic field. Our clientele spans various sectors, and they leverage our team’s specialized technical, legal, and regional expertise in digital and data protection legal services in Saudi Arabia.

Specialized Guidance for Important Projects

Our clients entrust us with their significant and intricate projects due to our specialized knowledge and capability to handle diverse challenges. Combining technical proficiency with a profound grasp of legal intricacies and our clients’ commercial objectives, our advice is pragmatic and geared towards achieving their objectives.

Our diverse team of specialists in digital and data protection is multilingual, with proficiency in English and Arabic. Our  lawyers offer localized insights and foster strong relationships with regulators and authorities, benefiting our clients.

We collaborate with companies across sectors such as technology, financial services, education, healthcare and life sciences, entertainment & leisure, and retail.

Our Digital and Data Protection Legal Services in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East include the followings:

  • Ensuring Data Privacy Compliance
  • Implementing Data Security and Cybersecurity Measures
  • Responding to Data Breaches
  • Crafting Privacy Policies and Notices
  • Negotiating and Drafting Contractual Protection Provisions
  • Drafting Data, Telecommunications, and Media Contracts
  • Crafting E-commerce Facilitation Contracts
  • Commercializing and Licensing Intellectual Assets
  • Providing Counsel on Digital Asset (including Cryptocurrency) Regulatory Matters
  • Offering Counsel on Data Governance and Cloud Regulatory Compliance

FAQs on Digital and Data Protection Legal Services in Saudi Arabia

Q. Does Saudi Arabia have specific laws governing digital and data protection?

Ans. Yes, Saudi Arabia has enacted the Personal Data Protection Law (PDPL) to regulate the collection, processing, and transfer of personal data, ensuring individuals’ privacy rights are upheld in the digital realm.

Q. What are the key provisions of the PDPL in Saudi Arabia?

Ans. The PDPL outlines requirements for obtaining consent before processing personal data, ensuring data security measures are in place, and imposing restrictions on cross-border data transfers. It also establishes penalties for non-compliance, including fines and imprisonment.

Q. Does Saudi Arabia adhere to international data protection standards such as GDPR?

Ans. While Saudi Arabia’s PDPL shares similarities with international standards like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it has its unique requirements tailored to the Kingdom’s legal and cultural context.

Q. When was the PDPL enacted, and what entities does it apply to?

Ans. The PDPL was enacted in 2021 and applies to all entities processing personal data within Saudi Arabia, as well as organizations outside the Kingdom processing data of individuals located in Saudi Arabia.

Q. How does the PDPL impact businesses operating in Saudi Arabia?

Ans. Businesses must ensure compliance with the PDPL by implementing robust data protection measures, conducting regular assessments, and staying informed about regulatory updates to avoid penalties and safeguard individuals’ privacy rights.

Q. Does Saudi Arabia have a data protection law?

Ans. Yes, Saudi Arabia has a data protection law.

Q. What is the PDP law in Saudi Arabia?

Ans. The data protection law in Saudi Arabia is the Personal Data Protection Law (PDPL).