Turkey: Turkish Data Protection Authority Published Guidelines For Data Security

Last Updated: 13 March 2019
Article by Selin Ozbek Cittone and Batuhan Aytaç

The Turkish Data Protection Authority ("DPA") has published Guidelines for Data Security ("Guidelines"). These guidelines were long overdue since the Data Protection Law ("Law") came into force almost two years ago. Yet, luckily, the Guidelines answer many questions that the data controllers have been asking.


In regards to the Guidelines, these are determined by assessing several factors regarding personal data:

  • Are they special categories of data?
  • Which level of privacy is needed?
  • The damage that a security breach may inflict on the data subject?

However, this does not mean that every data controller must implement extreme security measures. Guidelines specifically state that the data security measures should be determined by considering the cost, applicability, and effectiveness. The best way to follow is maintaining a balance between these three factors.


In regards to the Guidelines, the data controllers should train their employees for data protection and implement disciplinary sanctions if they act against data protection policies and procedures of the company. The Guidelines also emphasize a base principle to be followed while forming a data security culture: "Everything is Forbidden Unless Permitted".


As expected, the Guidelines take the personality of companies into consideration. By their way of processing, every company is unique. They differ not just due to their field of work, also due to their policies, culture, location, type, and many other factors. For this reason, the Guidelines specifically state that these data protection policies and procedures should be adapted in accordance with the way the data controller performs its activity and operation.

However, the Guidelines determine several actions that must be taken to maintain data security:

  • Regular security checks
  • Documenting the security checks
  • Identifying when, where or for what a development is needed
  • Identifying possible risks for each data category
  • Determining how to handle security breaches


By lessening, the Guidelines mean the timely retention and neutralization (deletion, destruction or anonymization) of personal data. The Guidelines state that data controllers should not store personal data longer than it is needed, and if they do for archiving purposes, they should store it in more secure environments. Companies usually forget about archived data along with the security measures needed to protect data. Now, the data controllers must do the exact opposite and provide additional security measures for archived data.


The first and most important cybersecurity measure that the Guidelines mention is using firewall and gateway. In addition to that, the Guidelines offer several security measures:

  • Patch management
  • Software updates and checks
  • Authorization restriction and distribution based on the need to process personal data
  • System access through username and password
  • More secure passwords (both small and all caps letters, numbers and symbols instead of person-related and easily identifiable passwords)
  • Regular password changes
  • Restriction of wrong password entry count
  • Regular hardware, software, and security checks
  • Antivirus, antispam and similar software/applications
  • Regular system checks for viruses, malware, attacks etc.
  • SSL or more secure connection routes
  • Immediate erasure of unemployed personnel accounts and removing their access

The Guidelines also recommend the data controllers to delete unused software and to form an authorization and control matrix.


The Guidelines also list several recommendations and necessities for data controllers to follow in order to provide security for the systems holding personal data such as: determining which software are used, if there are any breaches, recording logs, live checks, swiftly reporting and responding to the security issues, collecting and securely keeping evidence of unwanted incidents.


The Guidelines identify several security measures for the protection of electronic and physical media holding the personal data. These security measures include, but not limited to, the following:

  • Only authorized persons should hold electronic and physical keys in locations only they can access
  • Physical media should be stored in secure and locked rooms and locations (security level is depended on the media)
  • Using encryptions where needed with internationally acknowledged encryption programs
  • Proper distribution of access control authorization


These include assessing the security measures of cloud system provider, having knowledge of which personal data are stored in the cloud, back-up, and synchronization of the personal data in the cloud and a two-way authentication system to access the cloud system when needed.

Additionally, the Guidelines also mention a security measure that the DPA has previously emphasized in the Guidelines for Deletion, Destruction, and Anonymization of Personal Data to provide the data controllers the possibility to neutralize personal data: To cryptographically secure the personal data during the storage and usage and transfer to cloud systems. Separate decryption keys should be used for each cloud system. This way, when the data controller ceases its relationship with the cloud service, it will be able to easily neutralize personal data by destroying the keys.


The measures include, but not limited to, the following:

  • Checking application system inputs
  • Providing control mechanisms against errors, bugs, glitches, and breakdowns
  • If a device needs a maintenance, technical support or repair; physically removing the media storing the personal data, if possible, and sending only the damaged parts
  • Preventing third-party support/maintenance providers from collecting personal data and taking those outside the premises

The Guidelines also state that the applications must be designed to minimize the probability of the errors breaking the data integrity.


Per the Guidelines, the data controller must form backup strategies, allow only system admin to access data backups, hold the data backups outside the network and physically secure the backups. 


Finally, the Guidelines provide a table encompassing all the measures mentioned above with several additions as well as measures mandated by the relevant laws. 


The DPA will consider the criteria stipulated in the Guidelines to assess data controller's compliance with the security obligations under Article 12 of the Law.

It is important to note that the administrative fine for violation of the security obligations under Article 12 of the Law varies from 15.000 TL to 1.000.000 TL.

Therefore, data controllers should act immediate action together with their data security staff, technical experts, and their lawyers.

Additionally, we recommend the data controllers to also begin to take the administrative measures such as drafting their agreements with data processors, training their employees, determining security requirements that their employees shall comply with, preparing letters of undertaking, determining conditions for audits and controls. Data controllers, who have already prepared their data inventory and made preliminary studies for their policies, should reassess their existing policies and operations in the light of the Guidelines. Data controllers, who have not yet begun to work on their data inventory and policies, should immediately begin working and complete their compliance in accordance with the Law, secondary legislation, and these recent Guidelines.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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