Saudi Arabia declared spying on your spouse’s phone a violation of privacy and a criminal offence. The guilty may be punished with a year of jail time, along with a heavy fine imposition.

The move is aimed at enhancing cybersecurity and countering the high numbers of cyber crimes including theft, blackmail and defamation. It is meant to “protect morals of individuals and society and protect privacy”, the ministry said in its official statement.

“Married individuals planning to spy on their spouse in Saudi Arabia will need to think twice, because such an activity could potentially attract a fine of 500,000 riyals ($133,000, 108,000 euros), along with a prison term for a year,” read an English-language statement released by Saudi Arabia’s information ministry, as reported by thenews.com.

Read: Feminist Rani: Cybersecurity – Threats, Challenges and Opportunities

New Regime, New Rules

Saudi Arabia has launched several policy changes since the rise of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to power last year. These policy changes have been highly publicised, as well as discussed by the international media. The declaration of spying as an offence is the latest addition to that list.

With this policy, the Saudi Arabia government wishes to make the internet a safer space for its population. Currently, more than half of Saudi Arabic citizens are under 25, thus forming the major portion of the population which is constantly online. This has posed several safety issues in the past. The move comes amid a “steady increase in cyber crimes such as blackmail, embezzlement and defamation”, the statement said.

Tough Legislations

The Gulf nation has been known to be strict in its policy implementations, with heavy punishments being levied for seemingly small crimes as well. With spying of mobile phones by spouses being declared an offence, the utility of the action is being debated.

The TOI commented, “Saudi Arabia’s legislation on cyber crime has drawn harsh criticism from international rights groups in the past. Dozens of Saudi citizens have been convicted on charges linked to dissent under a previous sweeping law, particularly linked to posts on Twitter. Last September, authorities issued a public call for citizens to report on the social media activities of their fellow citizens, under a broad definition of “terrorist” crimes. It directed suspicious activity to be reported via the government-run “We are all security” app.”

( Picture Credit: ubnsoft.com)

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Nimisha Bansal is an intern with SheThePeople.tv

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