When It Comes To UAVs, Who Protects Your Privacy?

DJI Mavic Pro, Credit: Pixabay

While doing some light reading on the latest privacy laws as the pertain to UAVs and I found the following article. It’s an interesting op-ed piece that I thought was contextually relevant.

If the FAA isn’t protecting your right to privacy from drone spying, who is?

State laws already on the books offer some privacy protections, especially if a drone is shooting photos or video. Erin E. Rhinehart, an attorney in Dayton, Ohio, who studies the issue, says that existing nuisance and invasion-of-privacy statutes would apply to drone owners. If you could prove you were being harassed by a drone flying over your house, or even that one was spying on you from afar, you might have a case against the drone operator. But proof is difficult to obtain, she says, and not everyone agrees on how to define harassment.

Some states are trying to strengthen their protections. In California, nervous celebrities may benefit from a law signed by Governor Jerry Brown this past fall. The meat of the legislation reads, “A person is liable for physical invasion of privacy when the person knowingly enters onto the land or into the airspace above the land of another person without permission…in order to capture any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of the plaintiff.” And a similar privacy law in Wisconsin makes it illegal to photograph a “nude or partially nude person” using a drone. (Dozens of states have passed or are considering drone-related laws.)

Most of these statutes are carefully worded to focus on capturing images, because the states can’t control where drones are allowed to fly—that’s up to the FAA. Robert Kirk, an attorney who advocates on the part of companies that want to use drones for surveying, thinks that privacy laws that single out drones could be challenged in court.

Drone Privacy: Is anyone in charge?

Staying abreast of the latest rules, regulations and laws that impact UAV operators can be a full time job. That’s why it’s useful to have access to experts in the field.


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