(31 March 2015) The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data ("PCPD") published today a Guidance on CCTV Surveillance and Use of Drones (the "Guidance").
This Guidance replaces the Guidance on CCTV Surveillance Practices as it introduces amendments to take account of the new provisions of the Personal Data (Privacy) (Amendment) Ordinance 2012. More significantly, it incorporates new guidance for the responsible use of drones.
Drones (or unmanned aircraft systems) are either controlled autonomously by computers or by remote pilots.
Drones can be used in many ways that bring about great social and economic benefits, such as land surveying, predicting weather patterns, fighting fires as well as search and rescue operations. With reduced costs and increased capabilities, they are increasingly used in commercial operations (such as shooting advertisement; TV and movie production); and for hobby or recreational purposes.
The Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Mr 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. These include their mobility as well as ability to stay in the air for a considerable period of time, gather information from vantage points and over a broad territory. They have been aptly referred to as 'unblinking eyes in the sky'."
"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," Mr Chiang stressed.
The privacy guidelines for the use of CCTV apply equally to the use of drones. However, to address the drones' special attributes such as mobility, small size and difficulty to identify the operator, innovative measure to safeguard privacy are called for. Specific illustrations of this approach are provided in the Guidance.
Please read the Guidance at www.pcpd.org.hk/english/resources_centre/publications/files/GN_CCTV_Drones_e.pdf or obtain a copy at the PCPD office (12/F, Sunlight Tower, 248 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, Hong Kong).
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