Drones and privacy: Unlikely partners call on Australia to get ahead of the technology horizon during Privacy Week

Is it legal for a neighbour to fly a drone over your backyard? Can you stop someone filming you from above at the beach? Answers to such questions are sought by the unmanned systems industry and human rights community through clear national law reform.
To mark Privacy Awareness Week, Liberty Victoria and the Australian Association for Unmanned Systems (AAUS) today detailed plans for reform in order to resolve these questions and tackle growing concern about the right to privacy at a time of increased private drone use.
This seemingly unlikely linking of a leading industry and human rights group produced a paper called The Use of Drones in Australia: An Agenda for Reform. It calls on state and territory governments to introduce laws that balance the beneficial uses of drone technology with the need to protect Australians against harmful surveillance.

And it proposes that individuals should have the right to take action against harmful surveillance, with penalties for the damage surveillance can cause. 

Drones are well known for military use but are proving to be increasingly useful in domestic and commercial areas, from aerial photography and surveying crops to conserving animal populations and law enforcement.

Some drones now cost less than $100, effectively allowing almost anyone to conduct private surveillance.
Said Liberty Victoria Vice President Jessie Taylor: “The regulatory landscape in Australia is piecemeal and ill-equipped to deal with emerging surveillance technologies such as drones. The law is struggling to catch up with these developments.”

“Valuable new uses of such technology and the private unmanned systems industry are being held back because the law lacks certainty.”
Peggy MacTavish, an executive member of the board at AAUS, said “This package of reform would put Australian surveillance laws a step ahead of the technology horizon. It would encourage the development of Australia’s unmanned systems industry and ensure that valuable commercial and social use of unmanned systems can be undertaken without fear of breaking the law.”

She said it would also give Australians confidence that anyone using surveillance for harmful ends faced appropriate consequences.

For comment please contact Liberty Victoria's Jessie Taylor or AAUS's Peggy MacTavish by calling +61 3 9670 6422 or email info@libertyvictoria.org.au.