How important is your privacy to you? And what would you define as a violation of that privacy? If your neighbor climbed over your fence into your backyard and peered into your window, would you not almost certainly be offended? Without any doubt, this person would be breaking multiple laws such as trespassing and the Peeping Tom law. However, what if someone used a more subtle or sneaky way to view you and your property?
There are laws that protect against the use of cameras or telescopes to view private property; however, technology is advancing at breakneck speed and oftentimes new technology calls into question the exact parameters of preexisting laws. One example of such a technological advancement is the recent popularization of airborne remote-controlled drones developed for personal use. These drones have especially begun to concern privacy-inclined people as more and more are manufactured with high definition cameras that can stream video directly to a mobile device.
In one incident in Kentucky, an irate citizen blew his neighbor’s drone out of the sky with a shotgun. The man claimed to believe that the drone had been trespassing and spying on his 16-year old daughter, who was sunbathing at the time. However, video taken from the SIM card of the destroyed drone shows that the drone had been flying over 200 feet above the ground and wasn’t even technically flying over his property. This incident has forced people to consider what exactly violates a person’s privacy, what specifically counts as trespassing, and how much power a person has over their property. This leads to the question of how far a person’s private property extends above them, and is it trespassing for a drone to simply fly over a person’s home. If so, is it only trespassing below a certain height?
The answers to these questions tend to vary greatly because of their subjective nature and the discrepancies between city and state laws across the country. At a certain height above the ground, all airspace is considered public. Unfortunately, this height varies from state to state, further complicating the debate. However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has declared that private drones can be allowed to fly below this minimum level to prevent interference with commercial airliners and larger aircraft.
It has become clear that privacy laws need to be updated to better specify legal parameters so that better guidelines can be established as to what one can and cannot do with a personal drone. The specifics of these laws, however, really depend on public opinion, because there are no laws in Washington or in the Tri-Cities that address these issues yet. Tell us, what do you believe the right to privacy entails? Do you believe that the above Kentucky citizen had the right to shoot his neighbor’s personal drone out of the sky? Should personal drones be regulated? Whatever you believe, make sure to let Anderson Law and state lawmakers know how you feel.