Are there any restrictions on transferring personal data and how can these be overcome?
Cross-border data transfers affect all organizations that engage online IT services, cloud-based services, remote access services and global HR databases. Understanding the applications of lawful data transfer mechanisms is essential to validate recipients located in other nations. Data transfers typically include the following examples:
- personal data communicated over the telephone, by email, fax, letter, through a web tool or in person to another country;
- IT systems or data feeds which lead to personal data being stored on databases hosted outside the country;
- people/entities outside the country being able to access or "see" personal data held in the country; and
- the use of personal data by third parties through external solutions, e.g., outsourcing, offshoring and cloud computing.
Saudi Arabia does not have a general data protection law and there are no general rules on data localization for companies. In certain instances, the Cloud Computing Regulatory Framework (CCRF) may apply. Under the CCRF, cloud service customers are required to categorize their data into one of 4 categories. Data that is categorized as ‘Level 3’ or ‘Level 4’ cannot be transferred outside the country or processed in a public cloud. HR related employee data would generally be classified as ‘Level 1’ or ‘Level 2’ data. In some instances employers in certain regulated industries or who hold highly sensitive staff data may use a ‘Level 3’ categorization, which would prohibit data from being transferred outside Saudi Arabia.
HR Best Practices: The use of applications in the cloud frequently results in the international transfer of employee data. When using cloud service providers to process or retain employee data, follow the requirements under the CCRF, and limit international data transfers to employee data that is categorized as ‘Level 1’ or ‘Level 2.’