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Drones (or unmanned aerial vehicles) are increasing in popularity in New Zealand, marking a potential change for both business and recreational usage. The rules around drone use aim to encourage innovation while also providing adaptable regulation for the space. Some of these rules apply across multiple industries, with an important one being privacy. When you collect personal information, you need to comply with the Privacy Act. Consequently, this rule applies to any personal information you collect with your drones, such as footage that can identify people. You need to ensure you take steps to manage privacy concerns that arise when using drone technology for commercial purposes. This article will go through five privacy tips for using drones at your New Zealand business.

1. Get Permission

The New Zealand Civil Aviation Rules regulate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). One of their requirements is that when you fly your drone, you get the consent of:

  • any people your drone flies over;
  • the owner of any private property;
  • the Department of Conservation (DOC) when you fly over conservation land; and
  • whoever is in charge of public property you fly over, such as the local council.

Meeting this requirement is also necessary for avoiding breaches of the Privacy Act. When you fly over private property, and the owner thinks you have interfered with their property, they can complain to the Privacy Commission. Accordingly, this can lead to fines and legal action.

Therefore, it is crucial to plan your flight and get the permission of any people that it is likely to affect. That way, you can avoid surprising people and potential legal action due to invasions of privacy.

2. Only Collect Personal Information With a Drone When Necessary

Under the Privacy Act, when you collect personal information, you can only do so if necessary for a lawful purpose connected to your business activities. If your purpose does not require collecting personal information, then you should avoid doing so.

For example, using drone footage for your business commercial is a legitimate purpose connected to your business activities. However, if you record people, you need to tell them that you are doing so and why.

Filming with a drone means that you are recording people’s faces and where they are going. Someone can then use this film to identify the people in the footage you record. Many people are inherently wary of unfamiliar drones recording them. So, if someone makes a complaint and it turns out that you did not need to film them, you could face legal consequences.

Therefore, it is essential to consider whether you can avoid collecting personal information with your drone. Much of drone filming involves aerial shots, so you may not be able to identify people in the shots anyway because of the distance. However, you need to be careful to ensure that whatever filming you do of people or their property is necessary.

3. Follow CCTV Rules

CCTV is an already existing security recording system that collects personal information similar to the way that UAVs do. Therefore, if you already have a plan for managing your business’s CCTV system’s privacy impacts, you can apply that same logic to your drone usage.

For example, one privacy consideration for CCTV is determining where to position cameras to not be intrusive. You need to similarly consider where flying your drone and recording may not be appropriate.

4. Inform the Public

If you are recording with your drone in a public area, ensure that you inform the people around you. Inform pedestrians and local business owners, as well as anyone you are likely to fly over. Therefore, it may be easier to fly your drone in a space that you can easily control.

Signs can be useful for this purpose. Make sure they are easy to see and include important information, such as:

  • why you are filming;
  • the fact that you are collecting personal information;
  • how you intend to use the information you record;
  • the fact that you will store and dispose of personal information securely; and
  • any recorded person’s right to access and correction.

5. Secure the Information You Record

UAV footage can be extensive and end up with large video files. You may store these files on a cloud server or similar storage application. No matter how you store the footage you record, you need to ensure that you secure it appropriately. Since the information you record will likely contain personal information, you need to take reasonable steps to protect that personal information. Invest in proper cybersecurity measures, and update these when you need to.

Key Takeaways

Drones can be an innovative way to improve your business activities, and the sector is likely only going to grow. However, you need to ensure you do not raise any privacy concerns when you use a drone. Otherwise, you can face legal consequences. If you would like more information or help with managing privacy issues with your drone usage, you can contact LegalVision’s data, privacy, and IT lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is personal information?

Personal information is any data that you can use to identify a person, whether by itself or in combination with another piece of information. Examples include images of people or their names.

Does the Privacy Act apply to my business?

If your business deals with personal information, the Privacy Act will likely apply to you. In this case, you are an agency, and you need to comply with the Act’s requirements for handling personal information.

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