UAE cybercrime law: Six months in prison for snapping a photo?

UAE cybercrime law: Six months in prison for snapping a photo?
The UAE's cybercrime law has been slammed as draconian by human rights groups.
2 min read
28 December, 2021
Taking another person's photo without approval can land you a hefty fine in the UAE [Jaromir/Getty-file photo]

The UAE will make it a criminal offence to take a photo of people in public without their permission from early 2022.

Breaking the rule, part of the country's updated cybercrime law, could land perpetrators in jail for six months and/or with a fine of 150,000–500,000 UAE dirhams ($40,839–136,129), according to Gulf News.

The move is part of a years-long crackdown on freedoms in the Gulf state, where news websites have been blocked and authorities have wielded the legal system against opponents.

In the past, photographing people without approval was illegal when in private, legal adviser Wageh Amin Abdelaziz explained to Gulf News.

The new measure targeting public photography will be in force starting on 2 January next year and will also implement stricter punishments for digital fraud and attacking health and banking data infrastructure.

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Revisions to the law will also punish the spread of "false news", Abdelaziz explained.

Human rights groups have voiced concerns about fake news laws and how they are used across the Middle East.

In Egypt in April, nine healthcare workers were held pending investigation over "spreading false news" or terror allegations, including for highlighting concerns relating to their safety.

The UAE's 2012 cybercrime law has also been slammed as draconian by rights organisations.

Meanwhile, those involved in cryptocurrency on the internet without official licence could receive a five-year sentence and a fine of 250,000–1 million dirhams ($68,064–272,258).

This punishment faces "those who promote electronic currencies or fake companies to raise money from the public without a licence from competent authorities", legal expert Hassan Elhais told The National.

Authorities say it aims at stamping out cryptocurrency fraud.

Previously, it had been illegal to promote cryptocurrencies, though no penalties were imposed for this, the lawyer said.

Rules regarding the use of cryptocurrencies are still in their infancy in the UAE, where the digital coins are not considered a lawful form of tender.