Dubai: Do not check someone’s phone without their permission, even if you know the password. Although this may seem like a basic etiquette, it is also a legal requirement in the UAE.
On June 14, the UAE Public Ministry raised awareness on Article 9 of the Federal Decree Law No. 34 of 2021 for Combating Electronic Crime and Rumors, also known as the Cybercrime Law. The article stipulates the penalties to which a person is exposed if he obtains a password or an access code without authorization. According to the law, a person can face a monetary fine between 50,000 Dh and 100,000 Dh for accessing any information system using a password that he obtained without authorization. The action will be considered an aggravated offense if the password was obtained in an unauthorized manner with the intent to commit a crime.
— النيابة العامة (@UAE_PP) June 14, 2022
What the law says?
Article 9 of Federal Decree-Law No. 32 of 2021 states: “Shall be sentenced to imprisonment and/or a fine of a pecuniary penalty and not more than 100,000 Dh and not less than 50,000 Dh anyone who obtains, without permission or consent from the party concerned, a secret number, access code, password or the like with respect to a website, an electronic information system, a data network or a means information technology.
“The penalty will be imprisonment for a term of at least six months and/or a monetary penalty of at least 300,000 Dh and at most 500,000 Dh if the person who obtained the secret number, the access code, password or similar without the permission or consent of the owner, obtained access or allowed another person to access the website, the electronic information system, the data network or the means information technology, for the purpose of committing a crime.”
This offense will include [actions like] hack into a website or destroy electronic or personal data or access hidden information without the consent of the person concerned.
– Suneer Kumar, Senior Legal Partner at Al Suwaidi and Company
What does it mean?
But how does the law apply to a person’s daily life? Suneer Kumar, Senior Legal Partner at Al Suwaidi and Company, has broken down the different elements of the article, to understand the different situations in which it may apply.
According to Kumar, “information technology” would refer to all forms of technology used to create, process, store, exchange and use electronic systems such as websites, information networks, etc. Further, when referring to a “website”, the term may include online websites, social media websites, online networks and platforms, personal accounts, blogs and electronic services.
“This article is applicable to any person, in any capacity whatsoever, who obtains said information, code or password without the consent of the person concerned. This offense will include [actions like] hack into a website or destroy electronic or personal data or access hidden information without the consent of the person concerned,” Kumar said.
even a wife or husband cannot use each other’s passwords without permission. The purpose of this article is to protect a person’s privacy, prevent computer fraud and prevent unauthorized access to electronic networks.
– Imran Khan, lawyer and legal consultant at Bin Eid Advocates
Even if you know the password, you must obtain express consent
According to Imran Khan, a lawyer and legal consultant at Bin Eid Advocates, the article clarifies that permission must be expressly provided by the owner of the digital account or gadget. Failure to do so can also have implications on a personal level.
“A person can be prosecuted if they use someone’s password without their express permission. Thus, an unauthorized person cannot access another person’s network, even if he knows the access code or password. If he uses the password without valid authorization, the violator may be prosecuted under the Cybersecurity Act and other criminal laws, depending on the action of the person using the password,” said Khan.
He added that the article would apply to the act of accessing any electronic account, be it email, social media or bank account, or any gadget or electronic network.
“For example, even a wife or husband cannot use each other’s passwords without permission. The purpose of this article is to protect a person’s privacy, prevent computer fraud and prevent unauthorized access to electronic networks,” he said.