A creep in Port Lincoln, South Australia has been using a drone to look into people's homes late at night. It's another story in a flurry of concern over drones and privacy.

What does the law do to protect us against this kind of thing? Although there is no right to privacy or a clearly established tort of invasion of privacy in Australia, protection against invasions of privacy occur in two ways:

  • under State and Commonwealth laws which regulate the collection and use of personal or sensitive information; and
  • through a patchwork of other laws and criminal actions.

To say the least it's pretty complicated and unclear. Really it comes down to what information is being collected.

In addition to the legal protections, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (which is responsible for regulating drones), has rules around how drones can be operated (guidance here). The rules are fairly common sense. For flying drones recreationally they include not flying above 120 metres, not flying within 30 metres of people, not flying over people and not flying at night or through cloud or fog. Complaints can be made on CASA's website, but only for the unsafe operation of a drone not privacy concerns.

It's not okay secretly to record someone in their own home. Unfortunately the complexity and uncertainty of the law means that obtaining immediate legal protection from this type of behaviour is not as straightforward.