The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) released its comments on the notice of proposed amendment (NPA) to the Civil Aviation Regulations published by Transport Canada in the CARAC Activity Reporting Notice, no. 2015-12 (May 28, 2015).

The proposed amendment is to develop regulations for unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) (see summary here).The OPC highlights three key areas of concern: operator identification; appropriate use, and use over sensitive and protected areas.

Operator Identification

The operator identification issue is critical for accountability and the enforcement of any regulation.  While the OPC does not propose an identification method, it does mention three alternatives: physical plates, painted numbers or decals and unique signature signals (as in RFID).  It recommends standardized means to specify which commercial or government organizations might be operating UAVs.

Appropriate Use

Appropriate use is already a basic premise of both federal data protection laws in Canada, i.e. the “business need” or “program purpose“ requirement for the collection of personal data.  The OPC recommends a distinction in licensing between the bona fide “public interest” uses in contrast to purely commercial applications, particularly where the collection of personal data may be excessive or where the operation of a UAV occurs in areas such as residential areas, schoolyards, shelters, hospitals, prisons, places of worship and memorial sites, all of which carry some expectation of privacy.

Sensitive and Protected Areas

Current regulation restricts operation of UAVs over certain areas where people might congregate, due mainly to safety concerns.  The OPC suggests that similar restrictions be explored with regard to privacy concerns particularly over privacy sensitive areas.  Some states in the U.S. have passed bills prohibiting drones from photographing people on their private property without their consent.

While stopping short of calling for regulation, the OPC nonetheless highlights Argentina’s regulatory regime with respect to UAVs, and draws attention to its own guidance on the use of video surveillance for investigative purposes. It is of interest to note that some manufactures are coding “geo fences” (see our previous post here) in their firmware that use GPS or other technology to limit UAV movement.

Transport Canada intends to introduce the new regulations in 2016.