The digital age has made it easy to fall victim to invasion of privacy or commit a violation unwittingly. Image used for illustrative purpose only. Image Credit: Pixabay

Abu Dhabi: The Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD) has warned of heavy penalties for revealing secrets and violating the privacy of individuals.

With social media’s popularity growing, residents can easily fall victim to violation of their privacy, officials said. Meanwhile ignorance of the law can make people susceptible to unwittingly commit such violations.

To help people understand their rights and duties when it comes to privacy, the Abu Dhabi Centre for Legal and Community Awareness at ADJD has launched ‘Masouliya’ (which means Responsibility in Arabic).

Fines, jail terms

It recently posted an awareness video on its social media accounts explaining the penalty for revealing secrets and violating privacy.

The Department noted that Article 44 of Federal Decree Law No. 34 of 2021 regarding combating rumours and electronic crimes stipulates a penalty of imprisonment for a period of not less than six months, and a fine of not less than 150,000 dirhams and not more than Dh500,000 dirhams, or one of these two penalties, for anyone who uses an information network, an electronic information system, or an information technology means, to violate people’s privacy.

Types of violations

The department explained that the circumstances that require the application of this penalty include five violations:

1. Recording, broadcasting, or disclosing conversations, communications, or audio-visual materials,

2. Taking, revealing, or preserving images of others,

3. Publishing news, electronic or photographic images, scenes, or comments, data or information - even if they are true - with the intention of harming a person,

4. Taking pictures of the injured, dead, or accident victims and publishing them without the consent of those concerned,

5. Tracking or monitoring the geographical locations of others, or disclosing, transferring, or keeping them.

The Department warned that the penalty will be increased to imprisonment for a period of not less than one year, and a fine of not less than Dh250,000 and not more than Dh500,000, or one of these two penalties, when any modification or manipulation is made to a recording, image, or scene with the intention of defamation or abuse.

The awareness campaign, titled ‘Respect for Privacy…a Right and Duty’, aims to improve the societal understanding regarding violations of individual privacy, the social harms and the consequences, increase awareness among users of social media in sharing their personal information, and to show the legal responsibilities associated with crimes involving privacy violations.

Legal culture

Counselor Yousef Saeed Al Abri

Counselor Yousef Saeed Al Abri, Undersecretary, Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, stated that the expansion of awareness campaigns by Masouliya is aligned with the directives of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister, Chairman of the Presidential Court, and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, in promoting the dissemination of legal culture, thereby contributing to community awareness and maintaining security and stability of society.

Al Abri emphasised the importance of educational efforts in preventing members of society from committing crimes or engaging in negative behaviours given the vast cyberspace and the emergence of new forms of digital crimes. He highlighted the necessity of using diverse and innovative methods to safeguard networks and website users.

Counselor Dr Muhammad Rashid Al Dhanhani, Director, Abu Dhabi Centre for Legal and Community Awareness, underscored that privacy violations have become increasingly accessible with the rapid development of technology and the widespread use of social media.

Counselor Dr Muhammad Rashid Al Dhanhani

He stressed the significance of privacy rights as protected by various covenants, constitutions, and legislation to ensure the continuation and advancement of social life, accompanied by enactment and implementation of laws to criminalise actions that violate individuals’ private lives, with the imposition of deterrent penalties for offenders.

He added that the Centre is current fulfilling its role in creating awareness and education by introducing a new campaign titled ‘Respect for Privacy… a Right and Duty’ with the aim to promote understanding of laws and inform the public about the harm caused by invasions of privacy and the consequences they have on society, which ultimately aims to protect individuals in society by preventing such actions.

The Director confirmed that the rapid development of modern technological means, and the widespread use of the information network, especially social media, has turned the attack on people’s privacy into an easily accessible act.

Al Dhanhani said the right to privacy is considered one of the most important human rights covered by various agreements, constitutions and legislation, in a way that ensures the continuation and development of social life, which was accompanied by the enactment and application of laws to protect privacy, by following a clear approach in criminalising all actions that would violate the private life of individuals, with the imposition of penalties as a deterrent to anyone who violates this right.