Experts explore insights on personal data, AI and responsible tech use


Doha, Qatar: Qatar has a liberal data protection law when it comes to the crossing of the border by data and the country is looking at engaging with international partners and governments to facilitate the free flow of data.

Experts discussed insights yesterday during a seminar on ‘Data Protection in the Age of AI’ at the commemoration of International Data Protection Day. The event was hosted by Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) in collaboration with the United States Department of Commerce and gathered data protection professionals and legal experts from the region and the United States, including speakers from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), for insightful discussions on global best practices, and data protection in Qatar and the QFC.

The panel session entitled ‘Why Cross Border Data Flows and Data Protection Matter in the Age of AI,’ shed light on the vital interplay of personal data, artificial intelligence, and responsible technology use.

Essam A Hamdan, Azure Architecture at Microsoft Qatar said, “AI is as good as the data that it’s trained on. So, cross-border data flow is extremely important to be able to derive the value out of artificial intelligence and help in augmenting and empowering workforces, resources and processes around the world. We are advocating for that as far as Microsoft and realise there are some challenges and there is a lot of regulation that needs to go behind that.

 “We engage and work with regulators to be able to enable this cross border data flow effectively and be able to train artificial intelligence models to deliver that value to our customers.”

Also addressing the panel discussion Dino Wilkinson, Partner with Clyde & Co said, for lawyers cross border data transfers are a challenge.

From a legal perspective, the risks in relation to data is sometimes quite hard to understand. It can depend very much on the type and inherent value of the data, and rights that are attached it. Data protection laws are in place around the world to manage to balance that risk to privacy with the need for organisations to actually use personal data.

Speaking about how to mitigate the risks he said, “I think there’s a lot of material information now available, like the NIST framework when it comes to laws. And I think what we’re also seeing globally is more of a perhaps a bit of a consolidation of principles around data governance and data protection. We are seeing jurisdictions like here in the QFC developing laws that align with international standards. And I think the closer that that regulators can get to similar standards, the easier it is for organisations to comply.”

Qatar is looking at engaging with international partners and governments so that it can facilitate the free flow of data. While every jurisdiction wants to regulate to protect their own interests they also need to recognise they are part of a bigger global economy. 

In the Middle East, “we are still maturing when it comes to data protection as these laws have recently started to be implemented, developed and enforced. We are in a very early stage of development and that brings its own challenges, but I think it’s moving in the right direction.”

“There is growing awareness and understanding in these markets of the importance of privacy and data protection is certainly good to see. There is an increasing awareness among governments and regulators of the need to cooperate,” he added.

Speaking about data crossing borders in the age of big data and artificial intelligence, Omar Alayli, Regional Security Lead, Google Cloud Platform – Qatar said, AI models become more accurate and robust the more you train it and the more data you actually give it and when you enrich the data you supply to the AI models and benefit on several aspects.

Omar also explained about the risks of data crossing borders for the purposes of data protection and data privacy.

With every new innovation or advancement in technology, there are some new risks and challenges.

He said, “This doesn’t mean that we should push back on technology but we should embrace it and develop tools, procedures and the laws in order to deal with the new risks.”

Prof Georgios Dimitropoulos, Associate Professor of Law at HBKU moderated the event.

The second panel entitled ‘Protection in the World of AI: Challenges and Opportunities saw the participation of Daniel Patterson, Data Protection Commissioner at QFC; Sayid Madar, Head of Operations, Office of the Data Protection Commissioner ADGM and was moderated by Vice President of Data Protection and Regulator Compliance at DIFC, Lori Baker.

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