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Things you need to know about privacy laws in the UAE


Did you know that taking a picture of somebody in a private place, such as a house, and posting it on Instagram could get you in jail? We didn’t.

July 27, 2014 12:45 by

By Nadine Sayegh

In light of recent social media horror stories taking place across the UAE, Kipp wanted to investigate why so many people are getting themselves into trouble for posting photographs on their personal accounts.

At the end of June this year, a number of media outlets carried a story of a man who was incarcerated for filming a short video clip of a family sleeping on a boat trip that he was attending. This took place in Abu Dhabi, where the man in question filmed his friend and did not think it would escalate into such a large-scale problem that would eventually land him in jail.

Kipp speaks to Harriet Balloch, senior associate of the intellectual property team at law firm, Clyde and Co. to find out what the law states about sharing pictures on social media channels.

She says: “The copyright law states that you must get permission before you exhibit or publish a photograph of someone. The exception to that is if the photograph is taken in a public place or is of a well-known or public figure.”

Balloch explains that confusion can arise because the differentiation between public and private places can be blurred at times. However, the law usually favours those who have their photographs published without their prior consent.

She explains the reason behind this, saying: “I think that for the UAE, the importance of family life is highly regarded which is why the laws are as they are, and I think it is very sensible that the TRA is being proactive and issued all these white papers. The papers tell all these people that they should get consent before taking photographs of others or tagging them in photographs [on Facebook]. They are basically applying the existing UAE law to the new means of communicating, which is social media.”

Balloch continues to explain that an individual’s right to privacy is highly important to residents and citizens of the country and that it is reflected in the law. She explains that laws protecting privacy are

“In addition, articles 378 and 379 of the UAE Penal Code sets out that any person who attacks the sanctity of an individuals’ private or family life by  transmitting by any system a person’s picture at a particular place without their consent shall be punished by imprisonment or a fine or both,” explains Balloch.

Breaking this law can be punishable by jail time, as explained by Balloch: “It is a criminal offence, so, arguably, there is a potential for imprisonment.”

So, what’s the lesson from all of this?

Don’t snap and share (or at least get consent).

Have any of our readers faced a perplexing situation while using social media? If so please do share it with us, we would love to hear your take on all of this.

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