Guarding private life amid technology change

WITH the advancement in technologies, people’s lives are undergoing transformation, severely testing the traditional models of social protection.
Government entities, businesses and civil society organisations now carry out most of their activities on the Internet.
Given this extraordinary boom in the digital economy, data protection is getting desired priority. This is being done in view of the rising number of cyber attacks and the increased use of Internet by criminals and other gangs.
In Oman too, the government has recognised the need for becoming a full-fledged digital economy, at the same time, without failing to focus mainly on protection and respect for private life.
“From the legal perspective, Oman has laws such as the Combating Cybercrime and Electronic Transaction laws, to make online transactions more secure in the country,” Badar bin Ali al Salehi, Director-General of Oman National Computer Emergency Readiness Team (NCERT), told Observer in a recent interview.
Oman plays a crucial role in the fight against cyber crimes. A data protection law has already been drafted and work is on for regulations pertaining to the Internet of Things (IoT), smart cities and other developing technologies.
According to the law, personal data, which has a special emphasis in law, will refer to any identification number, location data, service provided, online identifier or one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that person.
Oman is the first in the Arab world, and fourth globally, in the Cyber Security Index published by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
According to Al Salehi, NCERT has dealt with more than six million cyber attacks on government websites.
“Oman’s IT security specialists thwarted more than 70 million attacks that targeted government networks in 2016. More than 1,800 cyber security incidents targeting organisations and individuals have also been dealt with,” he said.
The digital legislation in the country, apart from addressing several intellectual property issues, also provides appropriate punishments that meet the needs of general and private deterrence and ensures the interests of society.
To increase the trust of citizens and businesses in using electronic transactions, the Information Technology Authority (ITA) has initiated the formulation of e-Legislation for Oman.
The General Digital Legislations address key issues such as e-Law, intellectual property, taxation and data protection, legal recognition for electronic signatures, admissibility and evidential value of data messages.
It also provides electronic payment validity, jurisdictional matters, time and place of despatch of data messages, retention of data messages, enforcement of ‘electronic’ contracts, acknowledgement of receipt of messages and protection for privacy and security.
The Cyber Crimes Law covers violations of safety, confidentiality of data and systems.
Some of the penalties for hacking crimes are increased if they involve the misuse of personal data.
The newly introduced Oman Penal Code states that individuals can be sentenced to three years in jail for abusing the privacy of individuals through commission of acts.
These include activities such as listening to a telephone call, recording or transmitting conversations via a device, as well as taking or transferring pictures to a person or group of people without permission.
Failing consent of the individual concerned, the act of obtaining personal data would be unlawful.