Beyond Airspace Safety: A Feminist Perspective on Drone Privacy Regulation
(2018) 16:2 Canadian Journal of Law and Technology 307-338
originally presented at We Robot 2017 (Yale Law School, New Haven CT, March 31-April 1).
33 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2018 Last revised: 11 May 2021
Date Written: April 1, 2017
The impact of drones on women’s privacy has recently garnered sensational attention in media and popular discussions. Media headlines splash stories about drones spying on sunbathing or naked women and girls, drones being used to stalk women through public spaces, and drones delivering abortion pills to women who might otherwise lack access. Yet despite this popular attention, and the immense literature that has emerged analyzing the privacy implications of drone technology, questions about how the drone might enhance or undermine women’s privacy in particular have not yet been the subject of significant academic analysis. This paper contributes to the growing drone privacy literature by examining how the technology can be especially apt to impact women’s privacy. In particular, various features of the technology allow it to take advantage of the ways in which privacy protection has traditionally been - and in many cases continues to be - gendered. While the analytical focus is on the gendered privacy impacts of drone technology, the article and its conclusions are about more than women's privacy. Examining some of the differential impacts of the technology, and the laws that guide its use, helps to reveal broader inequities that can go unseen when we think about technology without social context. The paper ultimately argues that drone regulators cannot continue to treat the technology as though it is value-neutral - impacting all individuals in the same manner. Going forward, the social context in which drone technology is emerging must inform both drone-specific regulations, and how we approach privacy generally. This paper is framed as a starting point for a further discussion about how this can be done within the Canadian context and elsewhere.
Keywords: drones; privacy; feminism; privacy in public; drone regulation; Canadian drone regulation
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