Saudi Arabia's New Cybercrime Law Shields Cheating Spouses

Monday 9 April 201810:44 am
Saudi Arabia's new cybercrime law, which came into effect last week, must have urged many spouses who intended to spy on their partners to have second thoughts. Article 3 of the law penalizes spying on a spouse's mobile phone, stipulating that culprits can be sentenced to one year in jail, slapped a hefty fine that can amount to $133,000, or both. "Married individuals planning to spy on their spouse in Saudi Arabia will need to think twice," read an English statement released by Saudi Arabia's information ministry, underscoring a "steady increase in cybercrimes such as blackmail, embezzlement and defamation, not to mention hacking of accounts". The ministry blamed Saudi Arabia's high cybercrime rates on social media, saying the new law aims to deter unauthorized access to accounts whether by hacking them or spying on users' electronic devices. The law generally criminalizes spying on spouses' camera phones or similar devices, which it deems an invasion of privacy. Although the information ministry stressed that the law aims to "protect morals of individuals and society", many believe it shields abusive and cheating husbands from any legal action taken by their wives. Reuters reported that in Saudi Arabia -- like many other Islamic nations -- a wife would have to prove she was subject to violations or cheated on in order to demand financial compensation at a court of law. Mobiles have always comprised the prime source for troubled wives to get the requisite evidence, yet the new cybercrime law came as a hands-off warning to them. In UAE, Saudi Arabia's neighboring country, there is a similar cybercrime law that could see culprits handed three-month jail terms or fined around $817. Saudi Arabia has one of the highest rates of social media and smart phone usage among countries with comparable populations. Last year, the Saudi interior ministry established a special unit to detect social media violations and instigate legal actions against violators. International human rights organizations have panned Saudi Arabia over draconian punishments for cybercrimes. Prior to the new law, tens of Saudi civilians were sentenced to prison for tweets that bore violations pursuant to the country's previous legislation. Last September, Saudi authorities called on citizens to report suspicious behaviors on social media to fight what they call as "terrorist" crimes.
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