On 29 March 2015, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data ("PCPD") published the Guidance on Closed Circuit Television ("CCTV") Surveillance and Use of Drones (the "Guidance"). This is the first time the PCPD addresses the use of unmanned aircraft systems (commonly known as drones), following the Civil Aviation Department's ("CAD") Operations of Unmanned Aircraft Systems published on the 13 March 2015. This Guidance replaces the earlier CCTV Surveillance Practices published in July 2010, to take account of the new provisions of the Personal Data (Privacy) (Amendment) Ordinance 2012.
The use of drone technology in the military has flown their way into civilian recreational and commercial uses. E-commerce giants such as Amazon and Google sees drones as their next generation delivery option to deliver products to their customer's doorstep. While drones are increasingly common and much affordable for ammeter users to own their own drones, as we see an increasing number of photos and videos taken by drones in social media news feeds.
The under-regulated use of drones in Hong Kong has raised privacy concerns to the residents of the densely populated city, as many drones are equipped with on-board cameras capable of recording images during flight. The new Guidance addresses the use of drones from a data privacy prospective. It targets drones used in all purposes (including both recreational or commercial uses) with privacy intrusive features, such as camera drones that can record or direct live footage to its operator. The Guidance provides that the guidelines applicable to CCTV will also apply to drones and provides suggestions on responsible use for drone users to follow, such as flight path planning, processing recordings and notifying others who may be affected by the drones (by using flashlights or putting up banners indicating the drone operator).
As the commercial and civilian use of drones becomes more popular, we expect regulations on the use of drones will intensify in the coming future.