Drones and Privacy – What it means for you

Article eight of the European Convention on human rights articulates inter alia the right to a private life. Drones and privacy have become a core issue that should be addressed by this legislation. The reported incidence of drones invading the privacy of the average person is a clear contravention of this article. Despite thism law enforcement has difficulty classifying this issue and implementing the law.

Drones and Privacy

This problem is not unique to the UK. Reports about privacy invasion by drones abound globally and implementation of privacy laws whether in the UK, the US, Australia or elsewhere have become a thorny issue. It gets even thornier when a person tries to defend this right especially since your private airspace has not been detailed in either civil or criminal law.

The appearance of drones in our daily lives raise more questions than answers. the issues that emerge from their presence need to be carefully sorted and addressed individually. Allowing the issues to overlap creates a risk that important factors relating to privacy may be glossed over. Throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater becomes a real possibility.

Article eight of the convention appears to be quite vague.  It was designed to cover many aspects of personal privacy. This can be seen to put those seeking to enforce their privacy rights at an advantage. The wide interpretation of this section of the HRA means that all is not lost when we seek to protect ourselves from the invasion of our airspace.

It is a natural supposition that a person can protect their home and family from an intruder than invades through the garden gate or over the back wall, but for some inexplicable reason the idea that the airspace surrounding your home or workplace is not the same property as the ground is at best absurd.

Blessing or a curse?

Drones are an excellent idea. The boundaries can be clearly defined and implemented by both society and law enforcement. They are useful for hunting down criminals in both densely populated areas and wide open spaces. They are useful in search and rescue operations. But they can also be dangerous in the wrong hands. People traffickers, paedophiles and drug runners can all find useful ways to circumvent the law using a drone. Stalkers and violent criminals can use them too to single out their next victim. The problem is that as we struggle to keep the law in line with rapidly advancing technology those with darker motives can get ahead using every loophole available.


We all undergo regular surveillance anyway. Satellites take images our backyards more frequently than we should be comfortable with. This however is episodic surveillance and not specifically directed. Drones do threaten persistent surveillance and this surveillance is inevitably uninvited and directed. What we really need is to be able to identify who should be able to use a drone and under what circumstances. A bit like gun laws. This may seem to be like cracking a nut with a sledgehammer but think about this carefully.

Data Protection

Current legislation is very clear about data protection. One would assume the use of drones with cameras would fall under the data protection act. Problem is that legislation doesn’t really cover data obtained in this way. Photos taken in public places are generally deemed to be ok, and an intrusive photo of you in your living room would clearly be a violation of the law. But what about your teenage daughter sun tanning nude in your back garden? Images obtained using a drone should be subject to data protection regulations and should not be storable or usable without the subject’s consent. Its not about whether this is legal, because even if we use current legislation it is not, it is more about enforcing and implementing the law and how it applies in each situation.


Are you being harassed by a private person using a drone with or without a camera?  You can pursue your rights surrounding drones and privacy by applying different areas of currently enforceable legislation. Harassment laws apply equally to data protection laws. If you are being pestered by a neighbour or local in your neighbourhood, call the police.

Support the police

Some feel that calling the police is a waste of time. Do your homework and quote the relevant legislation that covers drones and privacy. You will then be helping the constable that turns up to take your statement.

Perhaps the next question we should be asking is how Brexit will affect our rights in defending against drones?