Skip to content

Media Statements

Media Statements

Date: 4 December 2017

Privacy Commissioner Reiterated Respect of Privacy in Using Drones
Suggestions on Regulating Drones under Study

(4 December 2017)  The office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Hong Kong (PCPD) noted the recent media reports on the issues of personal data privacy arising from the use of drones. Enquiries and complaints as well as suggestions from members of the public/media and District Council members have been received. The issue has also been raised during the meeting of Tsuen Wan District Council in which the PCPD was invited to attend.  Meanwhile, the police recently took individual enforcement action regarding use of drones for filming at outdoor public area. Given the general concerns about the issue lately, the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Hong Kong (Privacy Commissioner), Mr Stephen Kai-yi WONG, has the following comments:
  • Currently the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (the Ordinance) protects privacy rights of an individual in relation to personal data.  It relates to “information privacy”, and the said data must satisfy the definition of “Personal Data” under the Ordinance[1]. Generally speaking, categories of privacy rights also include “territorial privacy”, “privacy of the person” and “communications and surveillance privacy”.
  • The Ordinance is a principle-based and technology-neutral legislation.  While the technology and products for drone application have been evolving, the use of the relevant devices must comply with the requirements of the Ordinance as well as the Data Protection Principles if collection of personal data is involved.
  • The Privacy Commissioner has issued the “Guidance on CCTV Surveillance and Use of Drones”, offering advice on the use of drones from the perspective of protection of personal data privacy, including:
    • Carefully plan the ­flight path to avoid ­flying close to other people or their properties;
    • Pre-define what, where and when to conduct recording to avoid collection of unnecessary personal data; and
    • Inform affected people clearly of the operation of the drones, such as  making prior public announcement, using flashing lights to indicate that recording is taking place, putting corporate logo and contact details on the drone, etc.
  • The Ordinance and regulation should not hinder innovation and technology as well as economic development.  However if the filming place is a private premises, such as the home of the affected person, such practice in nature may possibly be intruding privacy of the affected person. 
  • In certain jurisdictions such as United States, Singapore, etc., the relevant regulatory measures or legislations regarding the use of drones are already in place or currently being drafted.  On the other hand, European Union is also planning to draft the regulations for civil drones, requiring the design and manufacture of drones to comply with EU basic requirements on safety, security and personal data protection.  EU member states will also need to ensure that operators of drones that can cause significant harm (including harm to people, risks to privacy and security, etc.) are registered.
  • We are actively studying and will submit recommendations on how to regulate drones from the perspective of protection of personal data privacy to the government.
Should a member of the public find his/her privacy rights relating to personal data are being abused due to the use of drones, he/she may lodge a complaint with the PCPD.
– End –

[1] Section 2(1) of the Ordinance: personal data means any data- (a) relating directly or indirectly to a living individual; (b) from which it is practicable for the identity of the individual to be directly or indirectly ascertained; and (c) in a form in which access to or processing of the data is practicable.