x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

UAE and social media: privacy settings, opinions and blackmailers

Take our poll: A victim recounts the time she posted what she thought was an innocent picture onto her Facebook profile - without checking the privacy settings.

DUBAI // Sara, who asked that her real name not be used, became a victim after posting what she thought was an innocent picture onto her Facebook profile - without checking the privacy settings.

The photograph, which showed her face clearly, was then taken by another girl she wasn't connected to and emailed to other men.

"She sent it round and spread rumours about me," she recalls. "In those days I didn't know about the privacy settings. She caused me a lot of problems. I managed to not let my family find out, I would have been in so much trouble."

The Emirati from Dubai says most of the problems actually stem from with men who think women should not show their face to strangers. It is these people who need educating, she says, not the young women who choose have a Facebook profile.

"It's an old opinion. If I want to share a fun picture then that should be my choice. But it is the men who think this shouldn't be allowed that cause the problems. If it wasn't for them, we would be ok."

At 25, Sara still feels she needs to hide her online activity from her family, which knows she has a Twitter account but is unaware of her Facebook profile.

"I'm very careful. If I share something publicly I make sure you cannot see my face. This isn't for me, this is for other people who might judge me.

Other cases

* Last week a 16-year-old boy in Dubai was found guilty of raping a 13-year-old he "met" on Blackberry Messenger, then met in person.

* A 15-year-old Emirati girl was tricked into meeting a man after he pretended to be a girl at her school when they met online, an Abu Dhabi court heard last year. She said she agreed to send him photos of herself, believing he was a girl. He then blackmailed her into meeting in person, when he raped her.

* In December last year an Armed Force officer who tried to blackmail a woman into going out with him was jailed for three months. The 28-year-old Emirati told the woman he had revealing pictures of her that he would make public if he did not agree to meet him.

* An intern at an Abu Dhabi based media company was blackmailed in 2011 by a colleague who had taken her laptop from her car and tried to force her to pay Dh200,000 to not reveal the photographs on the computer.

* A conman altered a woman's Facebook photos to make it look as if she were naked, then used the pictures to blackmail her. After accepting him as a friend, he doctored her personal photos and sent them to her friends and family.