Data Privacy Project

 Data Privacy Project

Convergence of rules and standards in the area of cross-border data transfers in Asia

Over the past years, data protection and privacy laws have become a common feature of the legal landscape in Asia. As Chief Justice Menon highlighted in his speech at the launch of ABLI, however, significant differences exist between the data privacy laws enacted in different jurisdictions. Moreover, other Asian jurisdictions are in the process of adopting such laws, whilst others have had bills pending for years, with no predictable outcome.

This complex environment is a source of business concern, in a context where multi-jurisdictional compliance is hard to achieve, enforcement is taking off, penalties for non-compliance are increasing and data protection and privacy regulators are setting up regional and international networks to support joint enforcement initiatives.

To address these concerns, in July 2017 ABLI’s Board of Governors launched a multi-stakeholder Data Privacy Project focusing on the key issue of the regulation of international data transfers in a selection of Asian jurisdictions. The project aims to propose actions that could achieve convergence in this area of law, based on feedback provided by stakeholders in the public and private sectors in the region.

ABLI’s Data Privacy Project involves a group of Jurisdictional Reporters (listed below) and a wider Experts Committee in which each select jurisdiction is represented and which comprises practitioners, industry representatives, and academics who have been selected on the basis of their capacity to contribute effectively to the project.  

  • Peter LEONARD, Consultant, Gilbert + Tobin (Australia)

  • CAI Kemeng, Senior Associate, Dentons Beijing Office (China)

  • Mark PARSONS, Partner, Hogan Lovells (Hong Kong SAR)

  • Elonnai HICKOK and Amber SINHA, Director and Researcher, Centre for Internet and Society (India)

  • Justi KUSUMAH and Danny KOBRATA, K&K Advocates (Indonesia)

  • Kaori ISHII and Fumio SHIMPO, Professors at the Universities of Tsukuba and Keio (Japan)

  • Kwang Bae PARK, Partner, Lee & Ko (Korea)

  • Graça SARAIVA, Lawyer and Associate General Counsel, Venetian Macau Limited (Macau SAR)

  • Abu Bakar MUNIR, Professor of Law, University of Malaya (Malaysia)

  • Katrine EVANS, Senior Associate, Hayman Lawyers (New Zealand)

  • JJ DISINI, Managing Partner, Disini & Disini Law Office (Philippines)

  • Ken CHIA, Principal, Baker & McKenzie - Wong & Leow (Singapore)

  • David DUNCAN, Consultant, Tilleke & Gibbins (Thailand)

  • Waewpen PIEMWICHAI, Registered Foreign Attorney, Tilleke & Gibbins (Viet Nam)

 Download the list of Reporters here: Dramatis Personae.pdf

ABLI is honored that Privacy and Data Protection Commissioners or Governments have provided input to the Jurisdictional Reporters on the interpretation and the implementation of these requirements in a large majority of these jurisdictions. It is also proud that, in recognition of the efforts of ABLI to contribute to the development of internationally comparable metrics in relation to data protection and privacy, the Secretariat of the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners authorized ABLI to have access to the data of the first Census undertaken by the Conference members in 2017.

ABLI also sought feedback from regional or local professional organizations with an interest in the development of common rules and standards on international data transfers in the region.

The jurisdictions covered in the study are the jurisdictions represented on ABLI’s Board of Governors (Australia, China, India, Singapore), other Asian jurisdictions with cross-border data controls in place (Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Macau SAR, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, South Korea) and ASEAN jurisdictions which are considering putting such controls in place (Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand).

The outcome of the first phase of the Project was published in May 2018 in the form of a Compendium of Jurisdictional Reports, together with a list of key issues to be considered in the second phase of the project.

The Compendium is freely available here.

On 7 February 2018, ABLI hosted ninety of the best experts and high-level government officials in the region at a Forum entitled "Towards a shared legal ecosystem for international data transfers in Asia". For the first time in Asia, representatives from governments, regulators, industry and the legal community across 19 jurisdictions met to discuss how to achieve a common framework to share and transfer information across borders. The success of the Forum attested to the timeliness of the project, and the relevance of the key issues identified as a basis for common work in its second phase.  The documents relevant to the Forum, including the Opening remarks by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, the Programme, the News release and the Photographs, are here:

At the end of the second phase, ABLI's Secretariat and an associated Experts Committee will issue concrete recommendations on these key issues, by aiming at the convergence of provisions on cross-border data transfers and of their implementation in the region. These recommendations can then be used as a set of common rules and compliance standards in this area of law in Asia.

This project is run with the dual objective of offering concrete solutions that have the potential to facilitate trade, while upholding privacy and data protection rights to foster consumer trust. Its end purpose is to assist companies in their compliance efforts, governments and regulators in the development of consistent policies in cross-border data flows and to offer a reference for Asian jurisdictions that are considering putting cross-border controls in place. These standards would thus be a first step to support legal convergence in the field of data privacy in the region.

A complete Information Pack on ABLI's Data Privacy Project is available for download here.

If you are interested in being involved, please send an email to Dr Clarisse Girot, ABLI’s Research Fellow and Project Lead:






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