Snapchat, Messi, and jail – the story of how a Dubai cop breached the cybercrime law

Will this official be behind bars for a video he took of Messi's passport? (picture courtesy of Hilary Clinton's  Twitter feed)

Will this official be behind bars for a video he took of Messi’s passport? (picture courtesy of Hilary Clinton’s Twitter feed)

It’s happened. That social media channel which everyone under the age of 30 is using (that’s why I’m not on it), has got someone into trouble. The ephemeral network Snapchat has gotten one Dubai police officer into trouble, for taking a picture of the passport of Barcelona footballer Lionel Messi when the footballing superstar came to Dubai. The picture, which I am assuming disappeared after being viewed, found its way to the authorities, and the gentleman in question has been charged with falling foul of the country’s 2012 Cybercrime law. The full story, courtesy of the Washington Post, is below:

A police officer in Dubai is facing a six-month prison sentence and a $130,000 fine for posting a video of Lionel Messi’s passport to Snapchat last month. Prosecutors say the act violated the United Arab Emirates’ Cybercrime Law of 2012.

The officer, identified only as a 26-year-old named J.J., appeared in court this week to plead guilty to the accusations, but maintained his intentions weren’t nefarious. Instead, he said he posted the Messi’s passport to Snapchat out of frustration from being denied the chance to meet the star who had traveled to the country on Dec. 27 to attend the Dubai International Sports Conference.

“I waited for Messi’s arrival [at Dubai International Airport] to take a photo with him … but his private escorts informed me that the player was tired and would not be able to take a photo,” J.J. explained in the Dubai Misdemeanors Court (via Gulf News). “Thereafter I walked to the passport control’s office where I saw Messi’s passport on a desk. I grabbed the passport and opened it to the page that contained Messi’s personal details and took video images with my iPhone via Snapchat.”

The video, which can still be found on YouTube, shows Messi’s photograph and data, and a man (presumably J.J.) can be heard narrating over the image.

“This is Messi here in Dubai… what shall I do now? Burn his passport or let it go?” the man says in Arabic in the Snapchat (via the Independent). “Alas… I will let it go.”

Prosecutors seem less alarmed about the man’s narration than the video itself, however.

“What the suspect did is an act punishable by the Cybercrime Law,” prosecutor Al Shamsi told Gulf News. “His behavior is deemed a breach of Messi’s privacy because the passport is considered a private possession just like the details mentioned on it.”

A verdict is expected this week. But, for those on Snapchat, beware! You may think your images disappear, but remember, nothing ever truly disappears once it goes digital.

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