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Overview of Oman's Personal Data Protection Law (PDPL)

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Oman recently passed the Royal Decree 6/2022 promulgating the Personal Data Protection Law (PDPL) on 9 February 2022. The PDPL will repeal and replace Chapter Seven of the Electronic Transactions Law, when it comes into effect a year later on 9 February, 2023.

While Oman's PDPL contains statutes that can be found in most other data protection laws globally, it does proffer an interesting take on data privacy rights for its residents. The first thing anyone will notice about this new law is how broad it appears in some cases. This is primarily because further executive regulations that will supplement this law are expected to be published before it will be effective. Moreover, Article 7 of the new law has appointed the Ministry of Transport, Communication and Information Technology (MTCIT) as the regulatory body to help enforce the provisions of this law.

However, for now, it is important to understand the critical bits of the new law and how it will affect organizations operating from Oman or catering to Omani users.

1. Who Needs to Comply with the Law

It is essential to understand what type of personal or sensitive data is covered under the provisions of this law as well as where does the new law's jurisdiction extend to:

a. Material Scope

As per the law's interpretation, it applies to any data that makes a natural person directly or indirectly identifiable, by reference to one or more identifiers, such as name, civil number, electronic identifiers, or by reference to one or more factors related to genetic, physical, mental, psychological, social, cultural, or economic identity.

Additionally, it applies to any health and biometric data that an organization may have collected.

However, the provisions of the law will not apply in the following cases:

  • Information related to matters related to national security interests;
  • Information related to economic and financial interests of the state;
  • Data related to vital interests of the country's internal affairs;
  • Data related to vital interests of the individual (data subject) to whom personal data relates;
  • Data formally requested by the investigation entities for detection or prevention of crime;
  • Data related to execution of a contract in which the data subject is a party;
  • Data that is processed within the personal or family context
  • Data used for the purposes of historical, statistical, scientific, literary or economic research by authorised authorities, that does not attribute to an identified natural person;
  • Data available to the public, and is not in violation of the provisions of this law. Territorial Scope

Since there's no explicit mention of the territorial scope of this law, it is reasonable to assume that it will apply to any organizations operating in Oman and any organizations not based in Oman but processing and collecting data on Omani residents following a similar pattern as that of other major data protection laws globally.

2. Obligations for Organizations Under that Specific Law

Like other data protection laws across the globe, Oman's PDPL places several obligations on organizations processing and collecting data on data owners.

a. Consent Requirements

As per Article 10, all personal data should only be processed through transparency, honesty and via express written consent from the data owner. Secondly, in the case of processing data related to minors, it is prohibited to process a child's personal data except with their guardian's consent unless such treatment is essential in the child's best interest.

Under Article 21, a data controller must secure a data owner's consent before publishing their data in any way whatsoever. Moreover, the data controller is obligated to obtain the written consent of the owner of personal data before sending them any advertising or marketing material for commercial purposes as per Article 22.

b. Privacy Notice Requirements

As per Article 14 of the new law, the data controller must notify the owner of the personal data in writing before beginning the processing of any personal data. The data owner must be informed about the contact details of the controller and processor, the purpose and description of the data processing procedure, and the rights available to the data subject.

c. Security Requirements

As per Article 16 of this new law, all organizations collecting data on Omani residents are required to hire an external auditor, approved by the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology (MTCIT), to evaluate their data protection mechanisms in place.

d. Data Breach Requirements

Per Article 19, the data controller is obligated, in the event of a breach of personal data, which leads to its destruction, alteration, disclosure, access, or unlawful processing, to inform the Ministry and the owner of personal data about the breach.

As there is no dedicated regulatory body dealing with data protection measures within the country, the Ministry will likely set up a dedicated communication channel to make this easier for organizations in addition to preparing and approving controls and procedures for data protection per Article 15.

e. Data Protection Officer Requirement

Controllers are required to hire a data protection officer (DPO) in line with the requirements laid down by Article 19 of this law. . Additional information, as well as clarity on the criteria for this official and their extended responsibilities within the organization, will be made in the future.

f. Cross border data transfer Requirements

Under Article 23, any organization can transfer data collected within Oman outside the country if it follows the directives issued by the Ministry of Communications. However, such transfers are prohibited if there is a chance that the transfer of such data may cause harm to a data subject under this law.

3. Data Subject Rights

Oman's PDPL affords personal data owners within the country with several data subject rights similar to other data protection laws globally. Data subjects, referred to as “owner of personal data” have the following rights per the PDPL:

  • Right to Withdraw Consent - The owner of the personal data has the right to revoke any consent that a website may have elicited from them at any stage of their browsing journey.
  • Right to Request Modification to Data Collected - The owner of the personal data has the right to request data collected on them by an organization be modified, updated, or withheld in case it is incomplete or obsolete.
  • Right to Data Portability - The owner of the personal data has the right to request a copy of any and all data collected on them by an organization in a machine-readable and easy-to-read format.
  • Right to Erasure - The owner of the personal data has the right to request an organization to erase and remove any and all data collected on them.
  • Right to Be Notified - The owner of the personal data has the right to be notified of any data breaches or changes to the organization's data collection and storage mechanisms. Hence, in the event of a data breach, an organization is legally bound to inform the affected data subjects

4. Regulatory authority

The new law does not establish a new regulatory body dealing with data protection. However, as mentioned earlier, the MTCIT has been tasked to take this responsibility from the Electronic Defense Center which was the primary body responsible for handling issues related to data protection in the country.

It will be responsible for preparing and approving the controls and procedures related to personal data protection, including determining the necessary safeguards, measures, and rules of conduct related to the protection of personal data.

Moreover, data subject will be able to contact the Ministry directly related to any data privacy issues.

There will be dedicated officers within the Ministry whose responsibilities will include enforcing this law. They will be appointed after confirmation from the Minister of Communications and hold the same authority as that of the judicial police.

5. Penalties for Non-compliance

Article 25 till Article 30 state the following penalties in case of specific violations:

  • If an organization fails to inform the data subjects before collecting their data properly, it can be punished with a fine of no less than (500) five hundred riyals and not more than (2,000) two thousand riyals per offense.
  • If an organization fails to appoint a data protection officer or does not cooperate with the Ministry, they can be punished with a fine not less than (1,000) one thousand riyals and not more than (5,000) five thousand riyals per offense.
  • If an organization sends a data subject unsolicited marketing or advertising material without appropriate consent beforehand can be punished with a fine not less than (15,000) fifteen thousand riyals and not more than (20,000) twenty thousand riyals per offense.
  • In case an organization transfers data outside the Sultanate of Oman, resulting in any sort of damage to the personal data's owner, they can be punished with a fine, not less than (100,000) one hundred thousand riyals and not more than (500,000) five hundred thousand riyals per offense.

How an Organization Can Operationalize the Law

Complying with various data protection laws can often be a hassle. However, a sound starting foundation proves incredibly helpful. Here are some steps related to how organizations can comply with Oman's PDPL:

  • Ensure all the company's employees and staff are acutely aware of their responsibilities under the law.
  • Organize regular data protection mechanism assessments through an external auditor as well as data mapping exercises to ensure maximum efficiency in your compliance efforts.
  • Notify the relevant authorities of a data breach as soon as possible.
  • Restrict the use of marketing and advertising material sent online to only those data subjects who can explicitly request such material.

How can Securiti Help

With most countries already having drafted their data protection laws or in the process of doing so, it has become more important than ever for organizations to make data compliance a strategic goal. Not only is there now legal pressure to do so, but the users themselves have become educated and informed about their rights to privacy.

Compliance with different data protection laws worldwide is easier said than done since each law has its provisions and would require businesses to tweak their data collection practices radically in cases. In such circumstances, AI-driven solutions are the best way forward as they allow the business to merge effectiveness with efficiency.

Securiti is a global leader in data compliance and governance solutions thanks to its PrivacyOps framework that can help any business achieve compliance at the click of a single button. Request a demo today and see how Securiti's tools can help you.

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