Owing to the increased popularity of unmanned aircraft systems, Hong Kong’s Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) has issued a Guidance Note for Hong Kong on CCTV Surveillance and Use of Drones. 

The Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Allan Chiang, said, “While the privacy implications of surveillance tools such as CCTV are fairly well understood, drones when fitted with cameras could add a new dimension to these privacy concerns by virtue of their unique attributes. To eliminate or reduce the privacy intrusiveness of the use of drones as a persistent, surreptitious, agile and efficient surveillance tool, users of drones should be particularly mindful of the need to respect people’s privacy. Public perception and the reasonable privacy expectations of affected individuals should be ascertained. The alternative use of less privacy intrusive means of collection and use of personal data should be seriously considered. The intrusion on privacy can only be justified if it is proportional to the benefit to be derived.” 

The Guidance Note, issued on March 31, 2015, offers advice to data users (both organisational and individual data users) on determining whether CCTV should be used in given circumstances and how to use CCTV responsibly. Privacy impact assessments are expected, and special considerations apply for workforce implementations. With respect to drones, the Note explains that the same considerations and protections should apply; however, drones can be even more intrusive and more difficult from a notice perspective. At bottom, the Note is a good example of important thinking about privacy that will need to evolve along with the technology.