Tracking a spouse's movements without permission in the UAE could land you in jail

The use of tracking devices on private cars is illegal, experts warn

Anyone who misuses tracking devices to keep tabs on their spouse faces a potential jail sentence, authorities have warned.

While the devices are often used to keep track of pets and even car keys, some people are using them to invade the privacy of family members.

The Abu Dhabi Judicial Department recently issued a statement warning that the use of such devices, which includes GPS trackers, to spy on people is against the law.

“Using tracking devices to stalk or spy on people in the UAE could land you in jail with a hefty fine,” the statement read. "Misusing the devices to invade the privacy of other people is punishable by law."

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It's crucial to understand the legal implications and the emotional toll such actions can take on all involved, especially the children

Awatif Shoqi, Emirati lawyer

The warning comes after a court case in Dubai this month, in which a woman was charged with placing a tracking device on her ex-husband.

The 41-year-old Belarusian woman was charged with breaching her husband's privacy, by hiding an Apple AirTag in a teddy bear belonging to their daughter.

Emirati lawyer Awatif Shoqi said the incident took place after the couple were divorced in July.

The former husband discovered the device through alerts on his mobile phone, which led him directly to the teddy bear.

He accused his former wife of breaching his privacy by tracking his location.

She denied the charges, claiming the tracking device was intended for locating her pets, not for spying on anyone.

Ms Shoqi, representing the former husband, told the court such actions not only breached the privacy of the individual but often rendered children as collateral damage in disputes between parents. The trial continues.

“The use of such devices can exacerbate the problems within a family, deepening the rifts," Ms Shoqi said.

“It's crucial to understand the legal implications and the emotional toll such actions can take on all involved, especially the children.”

Her firm, Awatif Mohammad Shoqi Advocates & Legal Consultancy, has noted a rise in cases involving surveillance apps installed on phones.

“The misuse of technology to invade someone's privacy is not limited to physical trackers," she said.

"We've dealt with instances where applications and digital devices were used as tools for surveillance, broadening the scope of privacy invasion among couples."

The misuse of such devices – available in shops and online – could lead to at least six months in jail or a fine of between Dh150,000 and Dh500,000 ($40,8440 to $136,150), or both under the cyber crime law.

Tracking devices can be found easily online, costing between Dh20 and Dh2,000, depending on the technology.

Keeping on the right side of the law

One expert told The National that GPS tracking devices can be used only on registered commercial vehicles.

“According to the law in the UAE, it is illegal for individuals to buy or install GPS trackers on personal vehicles,” said Shamsudheen OP, who founded Locator, a company specialising in vehicle-tracking systems.

“It is always recommended to familiarise oneself with the laws and regulations concerning installation of GPS tracking devices on vehicles before making any decisions.”

He said requests for tracking devices to be installed in vehicles to keep an eye on a spouse's whereabouts were more common in previous years, but such requests were still being made.

"We educate them about the UAE law and explain that such activities are illegal,” he said.

“We are unable to accommodate their requests.”

Another common request was for devices to be installed in cars tracking drivers bringing children to school.

This is another request that cannot legally be fulfilled, he said.

Updated: February 29, 2024, 9:51 AM