Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim has warned it may be impossible to use privacy law to prevent someone 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. For example the Federal Privacy Act doesn't cover the activities of individuals and so in the context of the use of drones, the act I administer wouldn't come into play."
"A (Canberra) court has been asked to decide whether a man trying to find his allegedly stolen iPad was acting unlawfully when he tracked it down to a north Canberra townhouse using Apple's anti-theft app and a GPS. Police, acting on the man's information, allegedly discovered the iPad and a cache of stolen items at the Forde house where 49-year-old Alden Harder lived.
Mr Harder's lawyer has argued the man physically trespassed on his client's property while searching for the iPad and had also committed ''trespass via radio wave'' when he activated an alarm on the device while it was inside Mr Harder's house. But the prosecution has dismissed the claim as absurd.
Mr Harder has not been charged with any offence.
On Monday, police applied to the ACT Magistrates Court for a forensic procedures order, asking for the man to submit to fingerprinting. Mr Harder is fighting the order."
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 which might apply to the remote-controlled technology.
"I think what is necessary would be for governments at all levels to have a look at those existing laws," he said. "To see whether they do deal with this rapidly changing technology and are able to keep up with it and meet the needs and the expectations of the community in this area," he said.
A view of the future ... researcher from the University of Tasmania trialling a drone.