The government of Pakistan has recently approved three new bills related to cybersecurity and data protection. One of the bills aims to amend the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (Peca), which has been criticized for enabling state censorship. The second bill, called the E-Safety bill, has not been publicly shared, raising concerns about its potential impact. The third bill, the Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB), has drawn criticism from rights activists for its provision on data localization. This bill requires organizations to process and store “critical personal data” within servers located in Pakistan. However, concerns have been raised about the independence of the commission responsible for defining what constitutes critical personal data. The government has received feedback and recommendations on the bill, but it is unclear if they have been incorporated into the approved version. The government’s push for data localization is driven by its challenges in accessing user data from social media platforms and its desire to assert ownership over voter data. However, there are concerns that data localization may jeopardize user privacy and give the government greater control over online content and communications. Genuine data protection should focus on limiting excessive data collection and promoting community participation in decision-making processes. Inclusive policy-making processes that involve privacy experts, tech companies, and citizens are essential for progressive developments in data protection. Transparency and public discussions about proposed laws are crucial to address concerns and build trust in the government’s efforts.
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