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Drones and privacy

Drone technology could give us the ability to observe people and places more easily and more quietly than ever before. Will anywhere ever be private again? And does this matter?

The Nano Hummingbird surveillance aircraft source

New designs the  size of small birds or even  insects offer the possibility to fly cameras and microphones into places without anyone being aware they are there..

How should the law respond to this?

Someone climbing into your garden to look through the window can be arrested for trespassing, unless it is a police officer with a warrant. Even the police need permission from a judge before they can put listening devices into people‚Äôs homes. Yet an aircraft flying overhead isn't trespassing even if it was using a high definition camera. How can a judge decide what makes for an invasion of privacy or trespass?

What about these cases? Are they an invasion of privacy?

  • Data gathering at public meetings or festivals by the police for "public safety". Should they still need a warrant?
  • Campaign groups flying UAVs over private land collecting evidence of illegal hunting or other environmental damage.
  • A criminal uses a quiet UAV to work out how best to commit a burglary.

Next: Responsible robots

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