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Bahrain’s PDPL vs. GDPR

Background

On 25 May 2018, the European Union's General Assembly put General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) into effect to ensure that individuals get greater control of their personal data and organizations secure their personal data. Similarly, inspired by GDPR, on 12 July 2018, Bahrain enacted its main data protection regulation, Law No. 30 of 2018 with respect to Personal Data Protection ("PDPL"). PDPL came into force on 1st August 2019 and supersedes any law with contradictory provisions. The Personal Data Protection Authority (the “ Authority”) oversees the compliance of entities with provisions of PDPL.


Application Scope:

Both GDPR and PDPL apply to entities that collect and process personal data belonging to EU and Bahrain residents, respectively. PDPL and GDPR apply to the processing of “Personal data,” which means any kind of information relating to an identified or identifiable person. Following is a more in-depth comparison between the two regulations.

Article: 2

PDPL applies to the processing of data by total or partial automatic means, and the processing by non-automatic means of data that form part of a filing system or are intended to form part of a filing system.

Also, PDPL applies to the following persons:

  • Every natural person who is habitually resident in Bahrain or maintains a place of business in Bahrain;
  • Every legal person with a place of business in Bahrain;
  • Every natural or legal person not habitually resident nor maintains a place of business in Bahrain, but processes data by using means situated in Bahrain, unless such means are used only for purposes of transit of data over Bahrain’s territory.

With respect to the last point, businesses must appoint a local representative in Bahrain to carry out their obligations and notify the Authority of that appointment. This provision indicates that PDPL has extraterritorial application scope just like GDPR.

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Articles: 3, 4(1)
Recitals: 2, 14, 22-25

GDPR “applies to natural persons, whatever their nationality or place of residence, concerning the processing of their personal data.”

Regarding extraterritorial scope, GDPR applies to organizations that are not established in the EU, but instead monitor individuals’ behavior, as long as their behavior occurs in the EU.

GDPR also applies to organizations located outside the EU (those that do not have an establishment in the EU) if they offer goods or services to, or monitor the behavior of, data subjects located in the EU, irrespective of their nationality or the company’s location.


Data Subject Rights

PDPL provides individuals rights relating to their personal data, which they can exercise. Under PDPL, the data controller should ensure the identity verification of the data subject before processing his/her data subject request. Also, the data controller must not charge for data subjects for making the data subject requests. The data subject may file a complaint to the Authority against the data controller, where the data subject does not accept the data controller’s decision regarding the request, or if the prescribed period has expired without the data subject’s receipt of any notice regarding his request.

GDPR also ensures data subject rights where the data subjects can request the controller or processors to implement their rights. GDPR allows controllers and businesses to either charge a reasonable fee or refuse to respond to manifestly unfounded or excessive data subject requests. Furthermore, under GDPR, the controller must inform the data subject of the reasons for not taking any action on their request without delay and within one month of receipt, at the latest. The following section explains each right and how they differ across the two laws.

Articles: 18

Under this right, the data controller is required to provide the following information to the data subject when requested.

  • All the data being processed;
  • Any information known or available to the data controller as to the source of the data, except where the confidentiality of the source is required by PDPL;
  • The purpose of the processing;
  • The names of the recipients of the data, or their categories; and
  • When such data is the sole basis for undertaking a decision that would directly affect the data subject’s personal interests, the way in which the data will be used shall be communicated in a manner that is clear to the average person, without prejudice to intellectual property rights or legitimate trade secrets.

The data controller must comply with this right within a period not exceeding 15 working days of request. A data controller, within a period not exceeding 10 days from receipt of the request made may notify the applicant to complete any deficiency in his/her request.

The data controller can reject a request if the data subject misuses his/her right in obtaining information. In this case, the data controller needs to notify the applicant, within a period not exceeding fifteen working days of receipt of the request, of its reasoned decision to either accept or reject the request, depending on the circumstances.

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Articles: 5-14, Recitals: 58-63

This right requires the controller to provide the following information to the data subject when requested. This should be given in a concise, transparent, intelligible, and easily accessible form, using plain language:

  • The identity and contact details of the controller, controller’s representative, and DPO, where applicable
  • The purpose and the legal basis of the processing
  • The categories of personal data concerned
  • The recipients of the personal data
  • The appropriate or suitable safeguards and the means to obtain a copy of them or where they have been made available.

The controller must provide the information necessary to ensure fair and transparent processing whether or not the personal data is collected from the data subject. This information includes the duration of data storage, the controller’s legitimate interests, and the existence of the rights to access erasure, rectification, restriction of processing, data portability, and filing complaints to the supervisory authority.

Data subjects must be informed of the existence of automated decision-making, including profiling at the time when personal data was obtained.

Articles: 19, 20, 21

The data subjects have the right to object to the processing of their personal data under the following two cases:

  • If the processing of that data for the specific purpose or in a manner that is causing unwarranted substantial damage, being material or moral, to the data subjects or others;
  • Where there are reasonable grounds according to which, processing for the specific purpose or in a manner that is likely to cause unwarranted substantial damage, being material or moral, to the data subjects or others.

PDPL grants the data subjects the right to object to direct marketing which is aimed at a particular person using their personal data, such as behavioral targeting, and ads sent via text messaging (SMS) or email.

Under PDPL, data controllers should cease the processing upon receiving a request from the data subject to do so.

The data controller is required to notify the data subject, within ten working days of receipt of request with any of the following:

  • If the request has been approved;
  • If the request has been partly approved, the reasons thereof and the extent of approval; or
  • Rejection of the request and reasons thereof.
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Articles: 7, 18, 21

GDPR provides data subjects with the right to object and withdraw consent to personal data processing. Data subjects have the right to object to the processing of their personal data. This can be done based on legitimate interest or public interest.

Once this right is exercised, the controller must stop processing the individual's data unless it demonstrates grounds that override the data subject's request.

No Article

PDPL does not provide a specific right to access, instead, it primarily focuses on the right to be notified of when the personal data is being processed.

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Article: 15
Recitals: 59-64

GDPR states that, when responding to an access request, a data controller must indicate the following:

  • The categories of personal data concerned
  • The recipients or categories of recipients to whom personal data has been disclosed
  • The retention period
  • The right to file a complaint to the supervisory authority
  • The existence of data transfers
  • The existence of automated decision-making.

The information must be provided without undue delay and in any event within one month of the request’s receipt.

Article: 23

Under PDPL, a data subject has the right to request to rectify, block or erase the personal data relating to him/her when the processing of such data is in breach of the provisions of PDPL, in particular, if the data is inaccurate, incomplete, outdated or if its processing is illegal.

Where the data controller has responded to a deletion/rectification/blocking request – wholly or partially, he must, within fifteen days from responding to such request, notify any third party, to whom the data have been disclosed, of the erasure that was made pursuant to the request, unless this proves impossible or unachievable.

The data controller is required to respond to the request, free of charge, within a period not exceeding ten working days of receipt of the request.

This right does not apply to public registers.

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Articles: 12, 16, 17, 18
Recitals: 59, 65, 66

The right to erasure only applies in instances where consent is withdrawn. There is no other legal ground for processing or when personal data is no longer necessary for the purpose for which it was collected.

The data subject requests under the right to deletion must be responded to without delay and in any event within one month of the receipt.

The deadline can be extended to two additional months where there is great complexity or depending on the number of requests. In any of these cases, the data subject must be notified of any such extension within one month of receiving the request, along with the reasons for the delay and the possibility of complaining to the supervisory authority.

The right to restrict processing applies when the data subject contests data accuracy, the processing is unlawful, and the data subject opposes erasure and requests restriction. The controller must inform data subjects before any such restriction is lifted.

Under GDPR, the data subject also has the right to obtain from the controller the rectification of inaccurate personal data and to have incomplete personal data completed.

Article: 22

Under PDPL, if a decision is based solely on automated processing of personal data intended to assess the data subject regarding his/her performance at work, financial standing, credit-worthiness, reliability, or conduct, then the data subject has the right to request processing in a manner that is not solely automated.

This right shall not apply where the decision is taken in the course of entering into or performance of a contract with the data subject, provided that suitable measures to safeguard his/her legitimate interests have been taken, such as hearing the data subject’s view.

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Article: 22

GDPR provides data subjects the right not to be subject to a decision based solely on automated processing, including profiling, that produces legal effects or similarly significantly affects them.

No Article

PDPL does not provide the right to data portability.

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Articles:12, 20, 28
Recitals: 68, 73

GDPR defines the right to data portability as the right to send data in a “structured, commonly used, and machine-readable format.” This right may be exercised only when it is technically feasible to do so.


Article: 10(1)(5), 14

Under PDPL, the Data Protection Guardian (Data Protection Officer) should maintain a register of the processing which the data controller is obliged to notify the Authority about under Article 14 of PDPL.

The data controller shall maintain the register if a Data Protection Guardian is not appointed. The register shall comprise, at least, of the information prescribed under Article 14 of PDPL. The Data Protection Guardian shall provide the Authority with an updated version of the register once every month.

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Article: 30
Recital: 82

Data controllers and data processors must maintain a record of processing activities.

GDPR prescribes a list of information that a data controller must record:

  • Name and contact details of the data controller
  • Purposes of the processing
  • A description of the categories of personal data
  • Categories of recipients to whom the personal data will be disclosed
  • Estimated period for the erasure of the categories of data; and
  • A general description of the technical and organizational security measures that have been adopted.

The processing information recorded by a data controller or processor shall be in writing or electronic form.


Articles: 12, 13

The data controller is prohibited from transferring personal data outside Bahrain unless the transfer is made to a country or region that provides sufficient protection to personal data. Those countries need to be listed by the Authority and published in the Official Gazette.

Data controllers can also transfer personal data to countries that are not determined to have an adequate level of protection of personal data where:

  • The data subject has consented to the transfer;
  • The data is from a public register;
  • The transfer is necessary for:
    • The performance of a contract between the data subject and the data controller or taking steps, at the request of the data subject, with the purpose of entering into a contract;
    • The conclusion or performance of a contract entered into, in the interest of the data subject, between the data controller and a third party;
    • Protecting the vital interests of the data subject;
    • Complying with an obligation prescribed in PDPL, not being a contractual obligation, or complying with an order from a competent court, the Public Prosecution, the investigation Judge, or the Military Prosecution; or
    • Preparing or pursuing a legal claim or defense.
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Articles: 44-50,
Recitals: 101, 112

GDPR states that personal data shall be transferred to a third country or international organization with an adequate protection level as determined by the EU Commission.

Suppose there is no decision on an adequate protection level. In that case, a transfer is only permitted when the data controller or data processor provides appropriate safeguards that ensure data subject rights.

Appropriate safeguards include:

  • BCRs with specific requirements (e.g., a legal basis for processing, a retention period, and complaint procedures)
  • Standard data protection clauses adopted by the EU Commission or by a supervisory authority
  • An approved code of conduct; or
  • An approved certification mechanism.

Articles: 8, 10(1)(4)

Under PDPL, the Data controller is required to implement appropriate technical and organizational measures to guarantee the protection of data against accidental or unauthorized destruction, accidental loss, as well as against alteration or disclosure of, access to, and any other unauthorized forms of processing.

Such measures shall ensure providing the appropriate level of security taking into account the latest technological security measures, the associated cost, the nature of the data to be processed, and the potential risks involved.

For data breaches, Data Protection Guardian is required to notify the authority.

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Articles: 5, 24, 32-34, Recials: 74-77, 83-88

GDPR requires organizations to take appropriate technical and organizational measures to ensure personal information processing security. These measures may include the following:

  • Encryption and pseudonymization of personal data
  • Ensuring integrity, confidentiality, and availability of processing systems
  • Restoring the availability and access to personal data promptly.
  • Assessing and evaluating the effectiveness of technical and organizational measures.

Under GDPR, organizations must notify supervisory authorities of any personal data breach that is likely to result in a risk to natural persons’ rights and freedoms without undue delay and not later than 72 hours after becoming aware of the breach. The information may also be provided in phases, and a justification must accompany any delay. The communication of the breach to data subjects, however, must take place without undue delay.


Articles: 58

PDPL carries a range of criminal and civil penalties and administrative fines for violating certain provisions. A person can be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, and/or a fine not less than BD 1000/- and not exceeding BD 20,000/- for the violation of specific provisions of PDPL.

The Authority can issue orders to stop violations, including emergency orders and fines. Data subjects can also seek civil compensation.

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Articles: 83, 84
Recitals: 158, 149

GDPR has an upper cap on its monetary penalties, either: 2% of global annual turnover or €10 million, whichever is higher, or 4% of global annual turnover or €20 million, whichever is higher. This depends on the level of violation, which is decided by the member states and public authorities.


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