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TURKEY - Data Protection and GDPR Review


The history of data protection in Turkey is relatively recent compared to some European countries, but it has quickly evolved to address the increasing importance of privacy in the digital age. Turkey's approach to data protection is shaped by its unique political, social, and economic context, as well as by international influences.

Early Developments

The Turkish Constitution and Privacy

The Turkish Constitution, specifically Article 20, enshrines the right to privacy. However, until recently, there were no specific regulations governing the protection of personal data.

Sector-Specific Regulations

Before the introduction of comprehensive data protection laws, certain sectors in Turkey, such as banking and healthcare, had specific regulations concerning confidentiality and data protection.

Data Protection Law of 2016 (KVKK)

In April 2016, Turkey enacted Law No. 6698, known as the Personal Data Protection Law (KVKK), which serves as the primary legislation on data protection in Turkey. The KVKK was influenced by the European Union's data protection directives and aimed to harmonize Turkey's legal framework with international standards.

Key Provisions of the KVKK

  • The law defines "personal data" and "sensitive personal data" and lays out principles for the lawful processing of such data.

  • It requires data controllers to register with the Data Controllers Registry (VERBİS).

  • It provides individuals with rights similar to those found in the European GDPR, such as the right to access, rectify, and delete personal data.

Establishment of the Personal Data Protection Authority

Following the KVKK, the Personal Data Protection Authority (DPA) was established to oversee the implementation and enforcement of data protection laws in Turkey. The DPA is empowered to investigate breaches, issue fines, and provide guidance on data protection matters.

Influence of the GDPR

The introduction of the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018 had a ripple effect on data protection discussions in Turkey. While not directly subject to GDPR, Turkey's KVKK has similarities in its principles and individual rights, reflecting the country's desire to align with international data protection standards.

Developments and Challenges

Economic Context

Turkey's growing economy and expanding tech sector have made data protection an increasingly crucial issue. The KVKK aims to protect consumers while also providing a stable legal framework for businesses, both domestic and international, to operate.

Political Context

Turkey's unique political landscape, characterized by its blend of democratic and authoritarian elements, poses challenges for data protection, particularly in balancing individual privacy rights with national security concerns.

Cybersecurity

As cyber threats become more sophisticated, Turkey is grappling with how to secure personal data effectively. The KVKK requires data controllers to take adequate measures to safeguard data, but the specifics are often subject to interpretation.

Future Outlook

Turkey is expected to continue refining its data protection laws and regulations to adapt to technological changes and international standards. Areas for future development could include data portability, automated decision-making, and more robust enforcement mechanisms.


Turkey has made significant strides in data protection in recent years with the enactment of the KVKK and the establishment of the Data Protection Authority. Influenced by European models but shaped by its own unique contexts, Turkey's data protection landscape is a dynamic field that is continuously evolving to meet new challenges and opportunities.


Turkey's Personal Data Protection Law (KVKK), enacted in April 2016, serves as the main regulatory framework for data protection in Turkey. While the country is not a member of the European Union (EU), its data protection law has been influenced by EU directives and bears similarities to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This guide provides a comprehensive overview of data protection in Turkey in relation to GDPR, discussing key principles, individual rights, organizational obligations, and enforcement mechanisms.

Legal Framework

Personal Data Protection Law (KVKK)

The KVKK is Turkey's primary law governing data protection. It aims to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals, particularly the right to privacy, in relation to the processing of personal data.

Personal Data Protection Authority (DPA)

Established by the KVKK, the DPA is responsible for the implementation and enforcement of data protection laws in Turkey. It issues guidelines, investigates violations, and has the authority to impose administrative fines.

Key Principles

  1. Lawfulness and Fairness: Personal data must be processed lawfully and fairly.

  2. Transparency: Data subjects must be informed about how their data will be used.

  3. Purpose Limitation: Data must be collected for specific, explicit, and legitimate purposes.

  4. Data Minimization: Only the necessary amount of data should be collected and processed.

  5. Data Accuracy: Personal data should be accurate and kept up to date.

  6. Storage Limitation: Data should not be retained longer than is necessary for the intended purposes.

  7. Data Security: Adequate measures must be implemented to ensure data security.

Rights of Individuals

Similar to GDPR, the KVKK grants several rights to data subjects:

  1. Right to Information: Individuals have the right to be informed about the collection and processing of their personal data.

  2. Right to Access: Individuals have the right to obtain information on whether their personal data is being processed.

  3. Right to Rectification: Individuals can request the correction of inaccurate or incomplete data.

  4. Right to Erasure: In certain circumstances, individuals can request the deletion of their personal data.

  5. Right to Object: Individuals have the right to object to the processing of their data under specific conditions.

  6. Right to Restrict Processing: Under certain conditions, individuals can request that the processing of their personal data be restricted.

Organizational Obligations

  1. Data Security: Organizations must take necessary technical and administrative measures to ensure the security of personal data.

  2. Data Controllers Registry: Data controllers are required to register with the Data Controllers Registry (VERBİS) before commencing data processing.

  3. Data Processing Inventory: Organizations must prepare a data processing inventory that explains their data processing activities.

  4. Data Protection Officer: Depending on the scale and nature of data processing activities, organizations may need to appoint a Data Protection Officer.

  5. Data Breach Notification: Organizations are obligated to report data breaches to both the DPA and the affected data subjects, depending on the nature and scope of the breach.

Enforcement and Penalties

The DPA has the authority to impose administrative fines for violations of data protection laws. Penalties can vary depending on the severity and nature of the violation. Fines can range from a nominal amount to significant sums, potentially reaching into the millions of Turkish liras.

GDPR Alignment

While Turkey's KVKK is not identical to the EU's GDPR, it shares many of its fundamental principles and aims for compliance with international standards. This alignment is especially important for companies operating in both Turkey and the EU, as well as for the cross-border transfer of personal data.

Conclusion

Turkey's approach to data protection has been influenced by EU standards, including the GDPR, but it also reflects the country's unique legal, social, and economic landscape. Companies operating in Turkey must comply with the KVKK and should be aware of how it intersects with GDPR if they also conduct business or process data within the EU.

As with any legal matter, for specific advice concerning data protection compliance in Turkey, it is recommended to consult with legal professionals who have expertise in both Turkish and international data protection laws.

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