Data Protection Act to be phased in

CABINET member with responsibility for digital transformation Dr Dana Morris Dixon has moved to allay the fears of business operators who will not be ready to meet the full requirements of the Data Protection Act (DPA) when it takes effect on December 1.

Under the DPA, breaches of the legislation, or the rules concerning data security, will be liable for sanctions ranging from a warning to multimillion-dollar fines and/or imprisonment.

But Morris Dixon on Tuesday accepted that some local entities will not be up to speed to meet the introduction of the DPA and said those that are behind to start on December 1, should not panic.

“Don’t be afraid of December 1. December 1 we will start registration but in terms of the sanctions and so on, those will take time to come in, and we will definitely communicate as we move along when it becomes compulsory for all the [data] controllers to be registered and when the regime in relations to sanctions will be very much in place and effective,” Morris Dixon told a post-Cabinet media briefing on Wednesday.

“So December 1 is really just the start of our journey on this road which Jamaica cannot, not be on, especially considering what is happening globally. Protecting people’s privacy is a right…and that is what this data protection is all about,” added Morris Dixon, who is the minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, with direct oversight for skills and digital transformation as well as the National Identification System (NIDS) and the Registrar General’s Department (RGD).

According to Morris Dixon, while the DPA will take effect as scheduled, based on feedback from a number of entities, the Government is prepared to phase it in.

“The plan is for December 1 to start the registration process and overtime [we] will give companies some time to comply. And the details around that, given that we have just finally been able to get where our private sector partners and our Government partners are in getting ready, we will be able to announce how we will roll in the Data Protection Act and the requirements around registration,” Morris Dixon told the media briefing.

She was supported by Information Commissioner Celia Barclay who noted that the challenges Jamaica now faces to get ready for the DPA are similar to what other countries have faced in the past.

Also addressing the post-Cabinet media briefing, Barclay urged people not to be fearful of the December 1 date.

“Recognise that we are a young jurisdiction generally [and] a new jurisdiction to the data protection sphere and that it will take time…for us to grow, develop and build out. So what we are seeking to do is establish relationships that will allow for us to be mindful of the limitations on both sides, but at the same time, work towards achieving our mutual objectives,” added Barclay.

Passed in June 2020, the Data Protection Act provides guidelines on how personal data should be handled in physical or electronic form, drawing inspiration from the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation.