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Chapter: 

I. Legal Framework

Constitutional privacy framework

As with many languages, Arabic has no equivalent to the English word "privacy," although there exist more specific - and less ambiguous - words that pertain to any discussion of privacy rights.1 While the concept of privacy exists in the Arab world, its content and meaning differ from Western notions.2 Traditional Arab privacy does not connote "the 'personal,' the 'secret' or the 'individuated space,' rather it concerns two core spheres - women and the family."3 Thus, while privacy as a cultural value is entrenched in the Jordanian state, privacy as a legal right is as yet an evolving concept.

The Jordanian Constitution specifically recognizes a limited right to privacy, but these rights are regularly circumscribed by law or practice. Article 10 of the Constitution stipulates, "[d]welling houses shall be inviolable and shall not be entered except in the circumstances and in the manner prescribed by law."4 Jordanian law is founded on Islamic law or shari'ah and elements of the Napoleonic Code.5 Article 10 can be directly traced to both the Qur’an and the Sunnah - the body of precedent sayings, acts and tacit approvals of the Prophet Mohammed - which together form the basis of the shari'ah.6

Article 18 of the Constitution stipulates, "[a]ll postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications shall be treated as secret and as such shall not be subject to censorship or suspension except in circumstances prescribed by law."7 In practice, however, authorities often do not respect these constitutional restrictions. There have been cases of security officers monitoring telephone conversations and Internet communications, read private correspondence, and engaging in surveillance of persons who are considered to pose a threat to the government or national security, but no incidences of this were reported in 2006.8

Data protection framework

Jordan has no data protection or privacy law, and it remains difficult for Jordanians to exercise their information privacy rights.9 However, a few laws already provide some level of privacy protections. While still relatively low, Internet penetration and e-commerce are expanding. Coupled with this growth, concerns about privacy and data collection are also developing. Less than three years ago, the majority of potential e-commerce users felt that their rights of privacy were not protected under then-current laws. There are domestic and international pressures for the government to address these issues.10

The Royal Scientific Society conducted a study on e-commerce and its effect on labor and found that Jordan was one of the leading countries in adjusting its laws to conform to technological evolution, which encouraged local companies to start electronic businesses.11 This could be attributed to the aforementioned pressure put on the government. According to another study, would-be e-commerce users feel that their privacy is not protected by the way the law is written.12

In July 1999, Jordan drafted a plan to establish the requisites for a knowledge-based economy, including: modern cyber laws, new information technology (IT) infrastructure, an IT-oriented educational system, and the latest generation in telecommunications.13 A key goal of the public/private REACH Initiative14 has been to establish a supportive regulatory and legal environment for e-commerce; a dozen important legislative changes have been promulgated, with more on the way.15 The achievements of the IT sector through REACH have included 15 new laws dealing with labor, telecommunications, private shareholding and IP, education sector reform and private-public partnerships.16 Unlike Malaysia's Multimedia Super Corridor program, after which it is modeled, privacy or data protection legislation is noticeably absent from the REACH agenda.

 

Footnotes

  • 1. For example, the term "khususi" meaning "personal."
  • 2. See Ahmad Moussalli, The Islamic Quest for Democracy, Pluralism, and Human Rights, 129 (University Press of Florida 2001). "Thus the state, which is responsible for securing people's rights, must work within a just context. For instance, the right to privacy - the prohibition of espionage or intruding in the private life of people - cannot be secured without such a context. Islamic jurists' views on this point can be summarized by saying that the privacy of the people could not legitimately be invaded if there was no apparent misconduct or violation of the law. The sanctity of privacy was earlier postulated by the Prophet [Mohammed] himself and can also be found in the Qur'an; the Prophet prohibited entering any residence without the owner's permission. Hanbali, Hanafi, Shafi'i, and some Maliki [jurists have agreed that a person can defend his privacy and even hurt the offender without incurring punishment ." Hanbali, Hanafi, Shafi'i, and Maliki are four of the five religious authorities of the Sunni school, which is one of the most important sects of Islam.
  • 3. Fadwa El Guindi, Veil, Modesty, Privacy and Resistance, 81-82 (Berg 1999).
  • 4. http://www.parliament.jo/dustor.html
  • 5. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/jo.html
  • 6. Umar Moghul, Approximating Certainty in Ratiocination: How to Ascertain the 'Illah (Effective Cause) in the Islamic Legal System 4 J. Islamic Law 125, 135 (1999). Unlike English common law, which is secular, Islamic law is based on divine sources: the Qur’an and the Sunnah. 'Illah is the reason for which a particular law is believed to have been established by God. The 'illah of asking permission before entering a private home is given in the text itself when the Prophet says that "permission is required because of viewing." Regardless of the potential awkwardness of adapting ancient text to the modern concept, it could be said that the 'illah therefore protects the privacy of the home.
  • 7. Constitution of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, supra.
  • 8. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/78855.htm
  • 9. http://vlf.juridicum.su.se/master99/staff/akhal/privacy.html
  • 10. Obeidat Mohammad, "Consumer Protection and Electronic Commerce in Jordan - An Exploratory Study," The Public Voice in Emerging Market Economies Conference, 2001.
  • 11. "Jordan: RSS Study Examines Effect of E-Commerce on Labor Practices," Financial Times Information, December 15, 2004.
  • 12. Obeidat Mohammad, supra.
  • 13. Owen Clegg, "Malaysia Is Example to Follow," Jordan Times, April 23, 2001.
  • 14. REACH is an acronym standing for: Regulatory Framework; Enabling Environment and Infrastructure; Advancement of National IT Programs; Capital and Finance; Human Resource Development.
  • 15. http://web.archive.org/web/20031016212731/http://www.arabia.com/jordan/b...
  • 16. http://www.jordanembassyus.org/12202004005.htm