Snap with caution - Dubai Police issue new warning to beachgoers

Police remind residents that filming or taking photos of others without their consent is illegal

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - July 02, 2019: Tourists cover up on a very hot day at the beach. Tuesday the 2nd of July 2019. Jumeirah public beach, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Beachgoers in Dubai have been warned to be careful when taking photos of their day out at the beach. If they do not, they could risk hefty fines or jail time.

Dubai Police posted a message on Twitter on Saturday urging residents to respect the privacy of others and reminding people “filming or taking photos of others without their consent is punishable by law”.

It was not the first time police issued this warning to the public.

In 2015, the force announced it was stepping up beach patrols to help maintain the safety of residents and tourists in the city. Among some of the steps taken to deter people from taking sly pictures without a person’s consent included the deployment of plain clothes officers on public beaches, as well as the addition of more security cameras on site.

A popular family destination in Dubai, the city’s beaches are densely populated during weekends.

Last year, 289 people were arrested for taking photos of women on the beach without consent, according to Dubai Police statistics.

A resident said the tweet acted as a good refresher on proper beach etiquette and, more importantly, the law.

Mother of three, Laureen Mincher, told The National she once had to intervene when her son was approached by strangers while at the beach.

“I had a group of men grab my son and start taking pictures with him. [My son] thought it was great, I was just freaking out and had to get the security guards involved. Security got them to delete the selfies they had taken.”

For Dani G, any tweet from official sources reminding people that it’s “not OK to invade someone’s privacy” by taking photos is helpful for old Dubai residents as well as new.

“I have been visiting Dubai’s beaches since 1980. If ever someone is taking a sneaky snap, I just approach them and inform them it is illegal to do so. They have always stopped pretty sharpish.”

The laws pertaining to the privacy of an individual are taken very seriously in the UAE. While this latest warning from Dubai Police hones in on “beachgoers”, Article 378 of the UAE Penal Code (Federal Law 3 of 1987) and Article 21 of the UAE Cyber Crime Law (Federal Law No. 5 of 2012) refers to any photo or video taken that may breach the privacy of individuals.

Those who break the law can face hefty financial penalties. In some cases — depending on how a picture and/or video is used — jail time or deportation can be handed down too.

This year, a person was arrested in Dubai after uploading a video that quickly went viral across the UAE. The incident showed a hotel worker on the bonnet of a moving car. Although the person behind the camera was not directly involved in the incident, they were arrested for breaching the law by uploading the video to a social media platform.