Facebook and Twitter spying claims baseless: police

Deputy head of Dubai police denies social media sites are routinely monitored, saying 'we respect people's freedom'.

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DUBAI // The deputy head of Dubai police denied yesterday that the social media sites Facebook and Twitter are routinely monitored, saying that "we respect people's freedoms".

Speaking on the sidelines of the third meeting of the Security Education Programme, Major General Khamis Al Mazeina, said that recent media reports claiming the two websites were subject to round-the-clock monitoring by dedicated teams in Dubai and other emirates were "confused".

"We are not concerned with people's private lives and we do not routinely monitor people's accounts. We respect people's freedoms," he said.

He said the sites were subject to police monitoring only following complaints from members of the public, for instance if someone believed they had been defamed on the sites.

"The UAE law does not allow us to monitor personal accounts as it would be considered an infringement on personal freedom," he said. "But if there is a report which requires police intervention we will take all necessary action.

"It is then we start to investigate and demand access to the suspect's account and computer."

The media reports, he said, had become confused with the work Dubai Police carry out in monitoring chat forums. Such forums have been blamed in the past for allowing the sexual exploitation of children.

"We have internet police who follow these forums to ensure that they are not becoming a place for exploitation, blackmailing or to pursue someone through them," he said.

A team at the anti-electronic crime unit at the CID carries out this work by posing as contributors to the sites.

Earlier this month a media report quoted the deputy director of the anti electronic crimes unit at CID as saying that Twitter and Facebook were both subject to round-the-clock monitoring by dedicated teams in Dubai and other emirates.

However, Maj Gen Al Mazeina, dismissed the report. "There is definitely no monitoring but cyber police follow up on the activity of some websites," he said.