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Dubai: Taking a photograph outdoors? While the UAE has some of the most photo-friendly tourist destinations in the world, if you take a photo or video that may violate the privacy of another individual, you can face serious consequences as per the UAE’s law.

The UAE’s cyber laws, publications law, UAE Penal Code and copyright law govern the penalties that a person can face if they take and publish photographs of people without seeking permission, or with the intent of damaging their reputation.

Taking pictures without permission

In 2018, a man was arrested for filming another man crying at a Roads and Transport Authority’s (RTA) customer care centre. The person also posted the footage on social networking sites, where the video soon went viral.

Later, Dubai Police advised people to refrain from similar actions as filming or taking pictures of others without their permission or defaming others online is punishable by UAE’s laws and regulations, specifically the Federal Decree Law No. 5 of 2012 on Combatting Cybercrimes, which prohibits the invasion of an individual's privacy by breaching their privacy, including taking pictures of others, or publishing or displaying those pictures. Moreover, the law states that those caught using technology to invade someone else's privacy can be jailed for not less than one year and face fines of between Dh150,000 and Dh500,000.

Taking pictures of accidents

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In another awareness message posted by Abu Dhabi Police in 2018, Abu Dhabi Police said that publishing photos of accidents can lead to confusion among social media users, and advised residents against circulating the photos on social networking sites.

“The internet is full of misinformation, and social media users should check the accuracy of their sources before sharing them with friends,” said Major General Salem Shaheen Al Nuaimi, Director of Command Affairs at the Abu Dhabi Police.

“Residents should also not use social media sites to post traffic violations or circulate rumours,” he said.

He warned that these acts could have legal implications for individuals, even if they are not aware of the consequences, while stressing that there is no excuse for ignorance of the law.

Taking pictures while driving

It is also important to not take pictures while you are driving, as you can land with a fine of Dh800 and four black points.

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Earlier this year, Abu Dhabi police warned motorists that taking photos while driving is a traffic violation and they will face penalties.

What the law says

Article 21 of the UAE cybercrimes law states that photographing others or creating, transferring, disclosing, copying or saving electronic photos through the use of technology for the invasion of privacy of another person shall be punished by imprisonment of a period of at least six months and a fine not less than Dh150,000 and not in excess of Dh500,000 or either of these two penalties

Additionally, Article 378 of the UAE Penal Code, Federal Law Number 3 of 1987 mentions that clicking someone’s picture without his or her permission is illegal activity in the country and will be termed an invasion of privacy. The article states: “Whoever publishes news, pictures or comments related to the secrets of private or family life of persons, even if they are true, shall be punished by detention for a period not exceeding one year and by a fine not exceeding Dh10,000, or by one of these two penalties.”

Similarly, Article 43 of the Federal Law Number 7 of 2002 concerning UAE Copyrights Law prohibits the act of taking someone else’s picture without prior consent and publishing such picture on any social media website for public display. The article, however, provides the following exceptions:

• In incidents that have publicly taken place;

• If the photograph is related to official or public characters; or national or international celebrities; or

• If the competent public authorities have permitted such publication for the purpose of public welfare; with the proviso that the exhibition or circulation of such photograph, is not prejudicial to the status of the person appearing in the photograph.