Asia St: New Data Protection Act Could Reshape Bangladesh Business Landscape

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New Data Protection Act Could Reshape Bangladesh Business Landscape

September 30, 2021

BGA Bangladesh Country Director K.M. Imran Al-Amin wrote an update to clients on reports regarding the country’s new data protection act. The update examined the context for this development, its potential significance and how it might affect clients and other stakeholders.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons).

Context

The government of Bangladesh is drafting the Personal Data Protection Act, which may enter into force before the December 2023 general election.

The draft of the bill is in progress. State Minister for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Zunaid Ahmed Palak noted that the draft has yet to be finalized, and the ICT Division is currently analyzing the laws of other countries. The ministry will publish the draft on its website when it is ready.

Significance

The bill will be a test of the government’s objectives and motivations. It is not clear whether the government is enacting the law to regulate commercial use of personal information or to bolster state security. Officials for their part have said the focus of the upcoming law is not to increase surveillance but rather to protect Bangladeshi’s personal information.

The reaction to the bill will take place within the context of upcoming political developments including the country’s next election to be held by December 2023. Some thought leaders believe that the government may use the Personal Data Protection Act to exercise greater control over citizen online activity, especially as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has ordered her Awami League party to start preparing for the elections starting this month.

Implications

The law is likely to affect many businesses that are presently operating or looking to do business in Bangladesh. This includes its data localization requirement. It could also be used as a negotiating tool with businesses and trade organizations in the future.

It could also raise other concerns, including on citizen privacy. Optimists may point to other countries around the world that have passed laws to protect their citizens’ personal information and ensure data privacy. However, many of the thought leaders in Bangladesh think otherwise.

BGA will continue to keep you updated on developments in Bangladesh. If you have any comments or questions, please contact BGA Bangladesh Country Director K.M. Imran Al-Amin at imran@bowergroupasia.com.