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Privacy in a pandemic: Only 66% countries with data protection laws, says study

Results of a new survey on global cyberlaw adoption, released on 28 April, show that only 43% of least developed countries take data privacy seriously

twitter-logoJoe C Mathew | May 7, 2020 | Updated 15:57 IST
Privacy in a pandemic: Only 66% countries with data protection laws, says study

Only 66 per cent of the nations of the world safeguard people's data and privacy, despite an 11 percentage point increase in the adoption of data protection and privacy legislation in the period between 2015 and 2020, according to new United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) data.

Results of a new survey on global cyberlaw adoption, released on 28 April, show that the share is even lower among least developed countries, at just 43 per cent. The findings come at a time when the world is increasingly depending on digital tools to access goods and services in a COVID-19-linked locked down period.

"Given the rise of cybercrime, scams and online fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic, the survey results are very worrying," said Shamika N. Sirimanne, director of UNCTAD's division on technology and logistics. For e-commerce to effectively support development, she said, consumers and businesses must feel protected.

The survey suggests that globally, 81 per cent of countries have an e-transaction law. Europe has the highest share (98 per cent), followed by the Americas (91 per cent). The share is lowest in Africa (61 per cent). Similarly, 79 per cent of countries have cybercrime legislation, though the share again varies widely by region: Europe has the highest (89 per cent) and Africa the lowest (72 per cent). For consumer protection online, the global share is 56 per cent. But the rate of adoption varies from 73 per cent in Europe and 72 per cent in the Americas to 46 per cent in Africa. Concerning data and privacy, 66 per cent of countries have legislation. The share is 96 per cent in Europe, 69 per cent in the Americas, 57 per cent in Asia and the Pacific and 50 per cent in Africa.

India is among the nations that have introduced legislations for electronic transactions, privacy and data protection and cybercrime. However, it is yet to tighten up its rules for customer protection.

For consumer confidence to pick up and people to trust e-commerce, more countries must have legal frameworks that adequately protect their citizens online, the survey says.

But protecting online consumers and businesses isn't just a question of legislation. After the laws are in the books, they must be enforced, and developing countries often have insufficient resources for enforcement, UNCTAD notes.

Launched in 2015, UNCTAD's Cyberlaw Tracker provides a repository of relevant laws in four legal areas essential for building trust in e-commerce: e-transactions, cybercrime, consumer protection, as well as data and privacy protection.

UNCTAD conducted the cyberlaw adoption survey in February 2020. More than 60 countries took part.

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