I should charge money for psychic readings! It was four or five years ago that I began predicting the advent of drones and that they would eventually be cheap enough for the boards of Homeowners Associations to start using them to inspect the most private part of your property. Your nude sunbathing or hot tub trysts could be played on the TV set at the HOA clubhouse and you probably wouldn’t win a legal case.
Well, so far I’m batting about 90% so far. The drones are here. They cost as little a four hundred bucks. And they’re popping up in thousands and thousands of places. Realtors are using them to advertise homes and neighborhoods. Terrorists are using them to interfere with commercial aircraft. Voyeurs are using them to videotape you and your lover on the backyard blanket. The FAA only controls drones in airspace over 1000 feet.
There’ve been a number of cases where homeowners have shot drones out of the air. The shooters usually end up being arrested and jailed. But it’s a whole new area of developing law and will probably take a decade or more to resolve. In the meantime even if a jury finds you not guilty you will have expended hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees.
Professor Gary Solomon also discusses the “drone dilemma” in HOAs in his outstanding interview yesterday with Shu Bartholomew, On the Commons. Direct link: http://onthecommons.us/images/stories/shows2/20150822solomon.mp3
Aside from the invasion of privacy, or non invasion of privacy issues utilizing drones in/by HOAs, who can forget this new account from last year in Australia? This woman’s home is not in an HOA. The real estate agent defended the use of the drone photography! Not only did the agent have the photo, but they used it on a billboard! I can only imagine what some vindictive, malicious, anti-social inflicted, etc., HOA board members, attorneys, pm’s (cam’s), or others with access would do with photos from drones in their communities!
“An Australian grandma was left “humiliated” after a real estate agent’s drone snapped her sunbathing topless in her own backyard — and the image was then plastered across a billboard.”
Woman ‘humiliated’ after drone snaps her sunbathing topless
Nov 17, 2014 – An Australian grandma was left “humiliated” after a real estate agent’s drone snapped her sunbathing topless in her own backyard … But he defended the use of drone photography to promote the properties he is selling.
Isn’t it illegal to photograph or video people where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy such as a balcony or backyard?
As a lifetime journalist I can probably tackle this one. There are many situations where one might think they have a reasonable expectation of privacy, yet they can legally be videotaped. That’s how the sting operation on Planned Parenthood was done. Certainly the PP representative thought her conversation was private. But it happened in a crowded restaurant. Since their conversations could potentially be heard by other diners, then she surrendered her privacy. If she was photographed coming to her front door she has no private. But if you secretly photograph her inside her home or even inside a public restroom then the photographer is in big trouble. A balcony or backyard is probably not a private place. A nightscope used on a backyard is probably way over the line. Finally, the laws on privacy violations by drones is still unsettled.