Drones fly through privacy law loophole

from ap-perspective.blogspot.com: Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim has warned it may be
impossible to use Australia’s privacy laws to prevent someone from being
filmed secretly in their own home by a drone.

He says he is confident the Federal Privacy Act would control the
actions of government agencies or businesses operating a drone for
surveillance. However, Commissioner Pilgrim has told Radio National’s Background Briefing program the act does not apply to individuals.

“Perhaps one of your neighbours buys one of these things and starts flying it around your local street,” he said. “What I am not sure about is whether we have sufficient laws to cover the activities of those individuals.”

example the Federal Privacy Act doesn’t cover the activities of
and so in the context of the use of drones, the Act I
administer wouldn’t come into play.”

Commissioner Pilgrim has called on governments to review their
privacy and surveillance legislation to ensure it covers the use of
drone technology.

He says there are inconsistencies between state
and territory surveillance legislation that might apply to the
remote-controlled technology.

Currently in Australia no formal qualifications are required to fly a
providing it is being used recreationally. Commercial operators
must be certified.


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In Australia there are just 24 CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) certified operators of UAVs and
another 10 currently in the process of making applications and being
assessed. Unless given special approval, all remotely piloted aircraft
must be flown:

  • below 400 feet;
  • within line of sight of the operator;
  • in clear weather conditions; and
  • only above unpopulated areas.

CASA spokesman Peter Gibson says new guidelines will direct drone
pilots to their responsibilities under various state and federal laws.

the guidance material we’re about to publish, for example, there is a
section on privacy and we refer operators to the Privacy Act and we say
to them, you need to be aware of the implications of your operations on
the Privacy Act and the privacy of individuals,” Mr Gibson said.

new guidance material will be released to the aviation industry for
comment within weeks, possibly even days, Mr Gibson said.

He says
CASA’s guidance covers “everything from flying training, operations,
maintenance, continuing airworthiness – all the issues that operators
and controllers of remotely piloted aircraft need to understand and
follow to make sure they are maintaining the safety standards we

CASA is also working on approving a world-first trial
proposed by Surf Life Saving Australia that would see drones being
deployed on surveillance missions, searching for swimmers in distress.

the trial is successful, the organisation wants to use drones more
widely to patrol remote and secluded beaches.
It has tested drones
equipped with inflatable life buoys that can be dropped near swimmers
who are struggling, as well as drones that can sound a siren if sharks
or other dangers are spotted.

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