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We recently completed our first investigation into a complaint about a drone. This concerned Sky TV using a drone with a camera to film a cricket match. During the game the drone flew close (within 10 metres) to the complainant’s apartment which overlooked the cricket venue. The complainant was irritated by this and gave the drone “the fingers”.

The complainant complained to us that he thought the drone may have captured highly sensitive information in an unreasonably intrusive manner. He said he was unsure whether the drone had been filming or who may have seen the footage.  He had not given consent. 

This complaint raised issues under principles 1 - 4 of the Privacy Act 1993 which deal with the collection of personal information. These principles specify when personal information can be collected and for what purpose; what an individual should be told when their information is collected, and how information should be collected.

We contacted Sky TV about the complaint.  Sky TV said that when their producer wanted to look at footage from the drone, he would radio the drone operator and inform him that he would begin recording the drone visuals from the air.  Sky TV said that despite how it appeared, the drone was not recording footage the entire time it was in the air.

Sky TV accepted that its drone may have flown past the complainant’s property, but said the drone had not recorded or broadcast images of the complainant, or the inside of his property. Sky TV also said the TV control room did not view any footage of the complainant or his property.

Sky TV said it did record and broadcast coverage of two women who were on the balcony of an apartment.  The Sky TV drone operator who was standing on a tower could, by line of sight, see the two women on their balcony.  He indicated by hand gestures that he wanted to film them and by return hand gestures they indicated their consent to that recording.  This was the only footage that was broadcast of identifiable individuals.

For us to find a breach of principles 1 – 4 of the Act, personal information needs to be collected. There was no evidence in this instance that Sky TV had collected information about the complainant, therefore in this case we found no breach of the Privacy Act.

Note: This complaint was also investigated by the Broadcasting Standards Authority, who also found no breach under the Broadcasting Act 1989.

August 2015

Drones – technology – collection – recording – unreasonably intrusive – Sky TV – Broadcasting Standards Authority – Privacy Act 1993; principles 1-4