Access Now and other civil society organizations submitted a letter to the National Legislative Assembly of Panama yesterday. We requested the suspension of the voting procedure for a data protection bill that lacks protections for users and the benefit of participatory debate. We call for an open process that enables the effective participation of civil society, academics, and other stakeholders, to ensure a rights-respecting data protection law for Panama.
The road to a data protection bill in Panama
In 2016, stakeholders in Panama began discussing a draft for a data protection law. That process included an open consultation and other activities in which members of civil society in Panama participated and were able to share their recommendations. But in January 2018, legislators decided to withdraw the bill (Nº 463) that emerged from that process due to a lack of consensus about the final content.
In August 2018, the government of Panama introduced a new data protection bill in the National Assembly. Bill Nº 665 was drafted by the executive power without public participation. Over the last few days, a series of meetings were held in legislative commission with the objective of finalizing the details of this new bill. There was no call for public participation nor was there publication of the text before or after those meetings. There is now pressure from the government for a vote on the bill as soon as possible, which puts civil society, academics, the public, and other stakeholders in a race against time and obscurity.
The consequences of not opening the discussion process to the public can be seen in the bill. The final proposal lacks fundamental protections for data subjects, and it does not take a user rights-centered approach with clear liabilities and exceptions, among other failings.
We need a pause in the process
Yesterday, October 9th, IPANDETEC, Fundación Iguales, Fundación Vida Segura, and Access Now submitted a letter to the President of the National Assembly with a series of requests to improve the bill and the mechanism for its discussion. We request that the legislative assembly:
- Suspend the legislative process of Bill Nº 665 on Personal Data Protection.
- Open a process for public participation and issue a call for civil society groups, the technical community, the academic sector, and other stakeholders to make contributions.
- Include a minimum of basic provisions for the effective protection of users’ data and a consideration of the issues that stakeholders would submit.
Here is the full text of the letter in Spanish (PDF).
We expect the National Assembly to consider our demands for the benefit of internet users in Panama. We believe this rushed process could turn into an opportunity for Panama to enact a proper data protection regulation that comports with international standards.