Most Read Contributor in United Arab Emirates, March 2017
DUBAI // The operator of a gymnasium chain has installed
security cameras in changing areas, sparking anger from members and
warnings that it could be breaking the law.
Customers of Fitness First Middle East's gym network say
their privacy has been invaded, but the company said the cameras
had been introduced after consultation with authorities and would
"I don't understand the thinking behind this
move," said a Fitness First member at Ibn Battuta Mall, one of
34 branches, where seven cameras were set up in the men's
changing rooms but not the women's.
"This is a complete invasion of privacy and very unfair on
the members. If people don't want to be photographed or filmed
in this way, will they give them refunds on their membership fees
so that they can join a different gym?"
Hassan Elhais, senior partner at Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal
Consultants, said the CCTV cameras could be in breach of criminal
"It is a very complicated situation but it depends on a
number of factors," Mr Elhais said. "Will the cameras be
visible or will they be hidden, and will customers be given prior
knowledge of the fact that these cameras are in place and
Mr Elhais said any evidence gathered using hidden cameras might
be inadmissible in courts.
"An individual who is recorded in such a manner can file a
criminal case against the manager and/or the employee who was
responsible for the recording," he said.
"Once the criminal court decides its final decision, the
complainant is able to file a separate civil case for
The courts have discretionary powers in deciding the size of the
compensation, he said.
"However, in some cases, if the individual was naked, even
if the individual has given his or her permission to be
photographed in such a way that may not, in fact, prevent the
authorities from beginning a criminal case," said Mr
In a privacy case that was in court in February, three
government officials who installed CCTV cameras at a women's
customer service centre were cleared of any wrongdoing.
The Abu Dhabi Court of Cassation found them not guilty of
breaching female employees' privacy by setting the cameras at a
federal authority's women's branch, overruling earlier
suspended jail sentences and a deportation order against one
Members at Ibn Battuta said they were alerted to the move when
signs went up saying security cameras were being installed, next to
existing signs discouraging nudity. Some said they should have been
consulted before such a decision was announced.
"They didn't even bother to speak to members before
putting the cameras in," said another member. "I
can't believe they go ahead with this and expect customers to
be OK with it." Others felt customers would switch to
different gyms in response.
"If it is an issue about safety then maybe they should have
more security guards rather than putting in cameras," one
said. "But I can see a lot of people going to a different gym
The company has been responding to members' concerns through
private messages on Twitter, explaining its reasoning for the
"Following consultation and due diligence with the relevant
authorities, Fitness First have installed CCTV in the reception
areas, in the male changing areas and on the gym floor," the
"This recent advance has been implemented to further
protect our members and our staff while on our business premises.
Permission was sought from the director of the Department of
"The footage is recorded by the Fitness First security
company who installed the cameras, and only viewed if required. The
footage is deleted after 30 days. It is standard operating
procedure by FF to install CCTV throughout the club."
Fitness First has 34 clubs across the UAE.
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