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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 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.

In 2021, the cybercrimes law was updated, with Federal Decree-Law No. 34 of 2021 being issued last year. Article 44 of the new law has been drafted to protect the privacy of persons preventing people from disclosing conversations or taking pictures of other or sharing pictures of other even if it is true, according to Mohamed Noureldin, Founder and Senior Legal Consultant at Nour Attorneys & Legal Consultants.

"The new law has maintained the same punishment of at least six months' imprisonment and a fine of not less than Dh150,000 and not more than Dh500,000.00," he said.

Taking pictures of accidents

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A man holding a smart phone with a Facebook logo as its screen wallpaper [Illustrative image] Image Credit: Reuters

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

Taking pictures of accident sites is also included in the new law, according to Noureldin.

"The new law has added additional points to include people who take a picture of accidents, crises, dead people and injured in accidents without the approval of the related personnel," he said.

It is also important to not take pictures while you are driving, in general, 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.

Article 44 Revealing Secrets and Invasion of Privacy
Whoever uses an information network, an Information System (IS), or any Information Technology Equipment (ITE) with the intention of invading the privacy or sanctity of private or familial life of someone without his consent in cases other than those authorised by law through committing any of the following actions shall be punished with imprisonment for at least six months and/or a fine of not less than Dh150,000 or more than Dh500,000:
- Eavesdropping, intercepting, recording, transmitting, broadcasting, or revealing conversations, communications or audio or visual materials;
- Taking photos of third parties in any public or private place, or preparing, transferring, disclosing, copying or keeping electronic photos;
- Publishing news, electronic photos, images, scenes, comments, data or information, even if it is true and genuine, with intention of harming the person;
- Taking, transmitting, or publishing photos of the injured, the dead, or the victims of accidents or disasters without permission or consent of the parties concerned; and/ or
- Tracking, monitoring, revealing, transmitting, disclosing, copying or keeping the geographic location data of third parties.
Moreover, whoever uses an IS or ITE to modify or process any record, photo or scene with the intention of defaming or insulting another person shall be punished with imprisonment for at least one year and/or a fine of not less than Dh250,000 or more than Dh500,000.

- with inputs from Zainab Husain, Features Writer