Flying Robots and Privacy in Canada
Paul D M Holden, "Flying Robots and Privacy in Canada" (2016) 14.1 CJLT 65.
42 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2015 Last revised: 27 Jun 2020
Date Written: January 8, 2016
Drones have been a hot topic in recent years particularly when used in war and in domestic police operations. Drones have also attracted attention because of high-profile plans to use them for package delivery, among other things. While the glamourous and future uses of drones catch media attention, drones are already being used in the private sector for more mundane purposes including surveying, infrastructure inspection and real estate sales promotion. While the privacy threats of military and police drones are widely discussed, privacy concerns of private drones have attracted much less consideration.
This paper looks at the privacy risks of private drones in Canada. It begins with an overview of the uses of private drones and their regulation in Canada. Regulation of drones in Canada is quite permissive and does not address the privacy risks. The paper then presents several privacy theories and a deeper discussion of two problems caused by technology such as drones: data aggregation and erosion of privacy in public. The paper then considers some theoretical and practical legal protections that might be used to protect against drone privacy invasion. The more theoretical include the torts of trespass and nuisance. The more practical include the tort of intrusion upon seclusion and the Personal Information and Electronic Documents Act. The paper concludes that the dominant theories of privacy embedded in Canadian law are not fully prepared for the challenge of drones, though the tort of intrusion upon seclusion holds some promise for the future.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation