Be wary of UAE privacy laws when posting Facebook content, telecoms regulator says

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has published a set of guidelines for UAE users to make sure they do not fall foul of the law, or breach the site’s own policies.

‘Users should be aware of the use of photographs and videos of other people without consent,’ the UAE telecoms regulator says in new guidelines. Dado Ruvic / Files / Reuters
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ABU DHABI // Posting content about other people on Facebook without their consent could be breaking the law, regulators warn.

To help social-media users stay within the boundaries of law and the site’s own privacy policies, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, or TRA, has published a set of guidelines.

“Users should not tag other users without their consent,” the guide says. “Users should be aware of the use of photographs and videos of other people without consent.

“UAE law contains quite broad provisions relating to the protection of privacy and reputation, so care needs to be taken when posting information about others.”

Facebook’s own privacy and use guidelines are similar to UAE laws.

“These restrictions are no more than users should expect under the laws of the UAE, which prohibit the publication of content that is contrary to public morals, the principles of Islam and the social and moral welfare of the UAE,” the guidelines say.

They warn against sharing sensitive or private information, such as passwords or financial information, as this could be shared publicly.

"Facebook and Twitter were built for people to share ideas, and for users to stay in touch with friends and relatives," said Thomas Shambler, editor of Stuff magazine.

“Their purpose was never to serve as an environment for slander and trolling, which is internet-speak for saying deliberately hurtful things.

“These guidelines only strengthen what made social media popular in the first place. The sheer amount of information available on social media makes it an uncomfortable place, especially for parents.

“Ultimately, these new guidelines will make social media a more friendly place and should help parents to decide if their children should be allowed to participate.”

The TRA’s guide is based on a study of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, Data Use Policy and the Facebook Community Guidelines.

It is designed to act as “a public service and for general information purposes only”.

The report is available online at Future reports will be published on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Yahoo/Flickr, LinkedIn, Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, the Apple Store, BlackBerry and Keek.

Facebook’s own guidelines include provisions forbidding content that “includes hate speech, incites violence or which is threatening or contains graphic or gratuitous violence”.

Nudity or pornographic material is also prohibited.

If found to be in breach of any of these conditions, Facebook can remove the content and ban the page.

The site has features that allow users to restrict who can see their content.

But the TRA warns that this would not stop another user who has access from reposting the information elsewhere.

It also enables users to control what posts they are tagged in, and report other users for abusing the feature.

The TRA’s guide adds that in the UAE, 69 per cent of Facebook users are male and 31 per cent are female.