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EghtesadOnline: Drawing on EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Iran’s ICT Ministry has prepared a bill it calls ‘User Data Protection’ that will soon be sent to the Majlis for ratification and become law.

Pointing to the GDPR which was implemented in the European Union member states in May, head of Iran Information Technology Organization said the final draft of the User Data Protection Bill has been written jointly by the ICT Ministry, the Judiciary Research Institute, and the influential Majlis Research Center.

The draft of the long-awaited bill was unveiled at the opening ceremony of the 24th round of Electronic, Computer, and E-Commerce Exhibition (Elecomp 2018) on July 28. Amir Nazemi said, “The draft has been revised since then,” the ICT ministry’s website reported.

At the annual exhibition ICT Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi introduced the bill in detail which aims to assuage users’ concerns about the shrinking privacy in cyberspace at the universal level. The first draft was introduced less than two months after the implementation of the GDPR, according to Financial Tribune.

Earlier in May and after the EU introduced the GDPR, Jahromi through his personal twitter account welcomed the measure and said Iran would soon do likewise. 

Unveiling the bill, he said, “Introduction of (effective) regulatory measures to protect users is becoming widespread across continents,” professing his commitment to push for similar safeguards in Iran.


Protecting Privacy

Echoing Jahromi’s earlier comments, Nazemi says, “Around the globe regulations have been introduced for preserving privacy. One example is the GDPR introduced in the EU. The new regulation has also been adopted in most non-EU countries.”

In addition to the bill, another mechanism is to be introduced in Iran for preserving users’ privacy regarding massive data collected by major online firms.

Personal data or behavioral information about a person gathered by online shopping websites can be employed by businesses for sending product advertisements and pushing ads based on users’ search history.

The wealth of information collected by major online companies can be analyzed and employed for targeted advertisement or sale schemes. Many consider such practices as a breach of individual privacy.

Nazemi is of the opinion that “To be able to protect user privacy, firms that have gained traction with the people must be obliged to meet special commitments.” 

As per the latest draft of the bill, Iran’s Cyber Police will be in charge of overseeing the economic performance of digital businesses.


Self-Imposed Sanctions!

Nazemi addressed another issue local online businesses have been struggling with for months and which has generally come to be known as “self-imposed sanctions”.

Over the past few months, and following the imposition of US sanctions, the Iranian economy has taken a hit and the array of tough restrictions have undermined the fast expanding e-commerce industry.

Nazemi is of the opinion that hurdles created by some local authorities have had a worse impact on the sector compared to the US hostility and its love for sanctions. Such hurdles are usually referred to as “self-imposed sanctions” by economic experts, political analysts, and the local media.

He adds that blocking websites of online firms is the worst example of “self-imposed sanctions”, which “actually conveys to entrepreneurs not to enter the field of online business.”

In addition to sowing seeds of despair among the youth, such unwanted moves by authorities “also push Iranian online firms towards employing foreign online hosting services for their websites. By using foreign hosting services, if a firm’s website is blocked by local authorities the online platform can be accessed via a VPN,” he adds.

Sadly, even the deputy ICT minister is not hopeful that meaningful change will emerge anytime soon, but he says, “There is still some hope.”

“Among decision makers, there are those who do not consider access to information and communication technologies and Internet among basic and essential services that every Iranian is entitled to.”

The deputy minister notes that the global approach to ICT services is changing, and access to it is considered essential. “Access to ICT-related services is as important as access to energy and staples.”

Given the government’s declared policy to gradually move the economy away from relying on oil export earnings and toward a knowledge-based economy, the introduction of new and efficient regulations regarding cyberspace is expected to gain momentum.


Iran government User Data Protection Bill General Data Protection Regulation GDPR