x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Police only have to ask for phone messages

Authorities do not need court orders to obtain information.

Authorities can request the details of electronic communications from local telecoms providers without specific permission.

"The police can simply say, 'We want this person's messages'. You don't need a court order to do that," said Philip Brazeau, who heads the telecoms practice at the Middle East law firm Al Tamimi.

Providers must monitor communications if requested by any "competent authority" in the UAE, he explained.

"Etisalat and du have a clause in their licence to ensure their services are not used contrary to public order and public good," Mr Brazeau said.

Mass monitoring of electronic communication could be done with software that scans for particular words, he said.

"You can simply request that, if a certain cluster of words come up it can be captured," Mr Brazeau said.

But such systems are not infallible and could implicate the innocent.

"If a married couple are feeling romantically inclined and are exchanging romantic messages, they may find themselves in an embarrassing situation," Mr Brazeau said.

bflanagan@thenational.ae