On Monday, June 12, South Korea became the latest country approved to officially join the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s Cross-Border Privacy Rules system. It is the fifth APEC economy to participate in the system, joining the United States, Canada, Japan, and Mexico. To date, twenty companies—including Apple, Cisco, HP, IBM, Rackspace, and Workday—have been certified under CBPR.
2014 was a very eventful year for data privacy regulation in Asia and there are reasons to believe that 2015 will represent a turning point for the region as established privacy regimes are toughened and new regimes enacted in recent years begin to mature. The past year saw a number of significant regulatory developments, in particular the implementation of new, comprehensive “European-style” privacy laws in Singapore and Malaysia, the amendment of China’s consumer protection law to include data privacy principles and increased financial penalties in South Korea.
Although Asia’s data privacy laws draw from a common set of guiding principles, each law is unique. Moreover, as freshly minted regulators come to grips with these new laws, differences in interpretation and underlying policy are becoming apparent. As a consequence, there is now a ‘patchwork’ of compliance requirements across the region. Depending on the country, sector specific laws, consumer protection laws, employment laws and laws in emerging areas such as cybersecurity, also complicate the compliance picture for Asia, and there is no common framework for any of these laws.