Are Drones Are Invading Our Privacy?

Business Insider has a well-written article on the issue of whether we should be concerned about drones invading our privacy, and whether new laws are needed to address those concerns. “Private citizens,” the article notes, “have grown increasingly concerned that these technologies could invade their privacy.”

Attorney Brendan Schulman – who has become the go-to guy for comments on sUAS issues – provides a healthy dose of context to these concerns:

As Schulman points out, most states already have laws to address the type of invasions that concern people. For example, peeping tom laws criminalize peering into someone’s windows. And private property laws prevent someone from building a treehouse over their neighbor’s yard. You likely can’t fly a drone there for the same reason, Schulman says.

“If I’m taking pictures through a window,” he said, “and I use a broom stick instead of a drone, it’s the invasive behavior that concerns lawmakers — not what you use.”

The article notes that the camera technology for most civilian drones is not very useful for surveillance. The writer points to this wide-angle city-scape of Seattle, taken by a drone photographer, which illustrates the point that it’s actually very difficult to photograph any sort of details unless the drone gets very close to the subject.


Our view is that privacy concerns are just another example of the sort of moral panic that tends to follow in the wake of our permanent, 24/7 news cycle, where perceptions of an issue and reality tend to get out of alignment. We will be observing developments, but contrary to the conventional wisdom in the media, it is neither the most interesting, nor the most important, issue relating to drone law and regulations.