In theory we should all have a right to privacy, but just exactly what does that right cover? Now, more than ever, what is considered to be an invasion of privacy has become a topic for hot debate, but why? The answer comes in the form of two dramatic changes incontemporary society, namely the boom in celebrity culture, and the boom in the number of drones that are taking to our skies. It is not an accident that the two are more closely connected than you might at first realise.
Where the legal definition of an invasion of privacy is concerned, this is given as “the intrusion into the personal life of another, without just cause, which can give the person whose privacy has been invaded a right to bring a lawsuit for damages against the person or entity that intruded. However, public personages are not protected in most situations, since they have placed themselves already within the public eye, and their activities (even personal and sometimes intimate) are considered newsworthy, i.e. of legitimate public interest. However, an otherwise non-public individual has a right to privacy from: a) intrusion on one’s solitude or into one’s private affairs.”
Where drones are concerned, it is unlikely that any major concerns would have been raised regarding privacy laws were it not for the simultaneous advances in camera technology that have enabled a small ‘quadcopter’ to fly with an attached camera capable of taking HD images either as still pictures or in video format. Irrespective of whether or not it is your specific intention to ‘spy’ on your neighbour, or anyone else for that matter, flying a drone over someone’s property will leave them with a feeling that their privacy is being invaded, and that would appear to be the major point. A classic example is women who (justifiably) feel they have the right to be able to sunbathe either topless or in the nude within the private environs of their home and garden. The law may protect them from the publication of any images captured, but currently it would not seem to stop them from being taken by a drone with an attached camera.