Countries across the Caribbean are preparing to adopt or strengthen their data protection legislation in order to guarantee individual privacy rights and safeguard personal data, while creating an enabling environment for data sharing and e-government in the subregion.
The benefits of implementing internationally aligned data protection and sharing legislation were discussed during a virtual expert group meeting (EGM) convened by ECLAC Caribbean on 15 July 2020. The EGM was based on an upcoming study that reviews the data protection legislation of select Caribbean countries to assess the extent to which these laws are aligned with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as well as international best practice in the area of data sharing.
The study, entitled `Creating an enabling environment for e-government in the Caribbean: A review of data protection and sharing legislation for alignment with the GDPR’, will make targeted recommendations for revision of existing legislation or adoption of new legislation in order to bring it into compliance with regional and international standards and protect the right to privacy in light of technological developments that have increased government surveillance capabilities and enabled private organisations to conduct targeted advertising and profiling.
Addressing the participants, ECLAC Caribbean Director, Diane Quarless, stated that providing a level of data protection for personal data essentially equivalent to that provided for in the GDPR can ensure a continuous flow of information to and from the Caribbean with significant economic value for countries in the subregion.
“Global e-commerce offers new opportunities for Caribbean organisations to operate in international markets. Since organisations processing the personal data of EU citizens outside the EU are also liable for fines under the GDPR, aligning national regimes with the GDPR will also reduce the risk of financial penalties for Caribbean organisations”, she asserted.
Among other things, ECLAC’s study will also make recommendations on facilitating cross-border transfers of data, incentivising public and private sector information sharing, balancing freedom of expression with privacy rights, and enabling the effective enforcement of data protection laws through adequate resourcing of and cooperation between supervisory authorities.
Representatives of government ministries, departments and supervisory authorities responsible for data protection, information sharing and e-government from participating Caribbean countries, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cayman Islands and Jamaica participated, along with representatives of Caribbean and European Union organisations with data protection and e-government mandates, and legal professionals with regional data protection expertise.