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Privacy and Legality

inkfromblood

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I have a grey area question (or maybe its not so grey as I think)

In my town, there is a large group of neighbors that believe there is illegal activity happening on a large portion of private property. They unfortunately have no way of obtaining evidence of this activity, other than the use of a drone. The police have repeatedly said they have no evidence of illegal activity, however there is reason to believe the violators are using police scanners, which allows them to stop. (small town, so calls take time to get there.)

I could easily fly nearby directly up from a neighbors yard without being over the private property where this activity is reportedly happening, and likely obtain the evidence needed.

The issue is, is this a violation of privacy?
Would it be possible to be sued by these folks if caught?

Not only that, but as I hope to eventually use my drone for business purposes, do not want to sully my own name before that even happens.

So the question isn't just about the legality of using my drone to capture images of the activity, but also a "Would you do it?" opinion poll.

Thanks!
 

FlyGuy8675309

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Nope. Just nope.

mls11.jpg
 

neggy

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well.... this is a hot topic and has to do with your reasonable expectation of privacy on parts of your property.

You would not have a reasonable expectation of privacy on any part of your property visible from a street or even an adjoining property.

But than again you have Google Earth and public images that you can see how many ant hills there are on a property.

This really is evolving law, and one of the things that could give drones another black eye.

I had someone complain on a local message board that I was over her property while photographing the neighbors house, and that she called the police.

Now the cops know who the crazy guy with the drone is, and they didn't even bother to show up. I then screen grabbed her back yard from Google Earth and asked her if she had complained to them, SouthWest Airlines that flies right over her house going into MHT , and every private pilot in the area. I also read her the I am a 107 licensed operator and the only entity that has any say about my flying is the FAA as they control the national airspace.

Cops can get around the radio thing by using cell phones, trust me it is done all the time.

The neighbors can also charter an aircraft and do a fly over at 1000' (and in some areas 500')

I know one town that used an airplane to look for building code violations on a property they were denied entry to

You are not a cop, nor an agent of a cop, so there is no need for a warrant if the pictures you took were to be entered into evidence in a proceeding.

What horse do you have in this race? What is your interest? Why are you getting involved?
 

Just_nick

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This will only end up with you losing. If it was that easy, they'd have a warrant issued and get the evidence. Throwing a drone up in the air and intentionally spying on people is not within your jurisdiction, nor will it end well for you if they decide they want to take you to civil court.
 

neggy

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This will only end up with you losing. If it was that easy, they'd have a warrant issued and get the evidence. Throwing a drone up in the air and intentionally spying on people is not within your jurisdiction, nor will it end well for you if they decide they want to take you to civil court.

A warrant requires probable cause, and they don't have it, or the cops have given this a low priority.

As I said above, it is a very slippery slope, and a dangerous one. Yes you can put a drone outside someones bedroom window, should you do it..... NO

Drones are cheap, let the aggrieved neighbors go buy one and do it themselves.
 
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Afremont

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I can tell you that in Texas, it's absolutely illegal for you to do that. That is, unless the police ask you to do it. That's Texas though, they made their drone laws an extension of personal privacy law.
 
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Wrinkle249

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I have a grey area question (or maybe its not so grey as I think)

The issue is, is this a violation of privacy?
Would it be possible to be sued by these folks if caught?

Yes it is a violation of privacy.
Yes they could sue you - you can sue for anything - but they wouldn’t win. Plenty of YouTube videos, many of animal rights groups (not always my cup of tea the way they are shot), that fly all over private property but launching from public land. Cops show up, property owners show up and they can’t do anything about it. People bare going to argue that under 500 feet can be controlled by local laws - but others will tell you that the FAA controls all airspace. WARNING - the regulars will be on this thread arguing the same stuff they always do. States/counties/cities making laws to control airspace are illegal but privacy laws are not, etc.

Not only that, but as I hope to eventually use my drone for business purposes, do not want to sully my own name before that even happens.

As stated in a previous reply, let those affected take care of it but if you are one who is affected and decide to get involved, who is to say that you shot the video? IF I were to get involved at all I wouldn’t spread the word, I’d shoot the video then pass it on anonymously. It could be entered as evidence which could be used to obtain a warrant as long as it wasn’t obtained illegally. Airspace is controlled by the FAA and you do not own the airspace above your property. See warning above.

It shouldn’t affect your buisness if you didn’t do anything....

"Would you do it?"

There is too broad of a spectrum in regards to “illegal activity” for a yes or no answer. If they are manufacturing chemical weapons - one extreme - of course I’m in. If they are making moonshine or growing some weed (legal where I live) without bothering anybody - I may be a customer but not filming it...

Great discussion topic. All about privacy rights - may get too political for the moderators to handle. I just read the Texas Privacy laws specific to drones and I am sure it will be challenged eventually...
 
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FL1H1

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I have a grey area question (or maybe its not so grey as I think)

In my town, there is a large group of neighbors that believe there is illegal activity happening on a large portion of private property. They unfortunately have no way of obtaining evidence of this activity, other than the use of a drone. The police have repeatedly said they have no evidence of illegal activity, however there is reason to believe the violators are using police scanners, which allows them to stop. (small town, so calls take time to get there.)

I could easily fly nearby directly up from a neighbors yard without being over the private property where this activity is reportedly happening, and likely obtain the evidence needed.

The issue is, is this a violation of privacy?
Would it be possible to be sued by these folks if caught?

Not only that, but as I hope to eventually use my drone for business purposes, do not want to sully my own name before that even happens.

So the question isn't just about the legality of using my drone to capture images of the activity, but also a "Would you do it?" opinion poll.

Thanks!
So long as its not on private property you'll be fine. You can be done for filming activity in people's gardens, houses, private businesses but not for activity in the public domain. This means if you film a couple in a garden and upload it and it turns out that you've exposed an affair, then you can be done but if you're a vlogger say, and do the same in a restaurant, you can't because they're in the public domain. So, dash cams, body cams are all OK, In the public domain. However, I can't guarantee the police or courts will accept such evidence but that's how it works regards privacy. Houses, gardens, no. Public domain, fine.
 

dirkclod

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Great discussion topic. All about privacy rights - may get too political for the moderators to handle...
This has been beat to death and don't worry about me handling it as I know how to fix that .
Carry on but stay civil and within the guidelines and your ok . 0ROJYyg.png
 
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FlyGuy8675309

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Cops can get around the radio thing by using cell phones, trust me it is done all the time.

Many police depts are moving to encrypted radios. Only thing I can listen to in Florida is fire/rescue and ATC.
 

Chip

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..The issue is, is this a violation of privacy?Would it be possible to be sued by these folks if caught?...

As others have said, you must first check to see if you have a special state drone law which covers this. Some states may have laws which prohibit private or public actors from using drones to conduct targeted surveillance. Most if not all states have existing laws which can be applied to situations involving drones, such as harassment, reckless endangerment, trespassing, stalking, and voyeurism. Many state courts recognize four different kinds of civil tort claims for invasion of privacy including intrusion upon seclusion and public disclosure of private facts. To win such a claim, the plaintiff must usually prove that the activity violated a reasonable expectation of privacy in a manner that a person of ordinary sensibility would consider "highly offensive." That can be a very difficult and costly thing to try and prove in a case involving outdoor photography in a public place (or with permission from landowner).
 

DroningOn

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A few years ago a real dirt bag moved into our development. Early 30s and lives there alone except for his many “friends“ who constantly come in and out and stay for days or weeks sometimes. This doesn’t include the constant parade of his customers. His father bought him the house. Turns out the guy is a convicted drug user and dealer and thief with multiple drug and larceny convictions (thank you public records). Needless to say we keep a close eye on this guy including two 24 hour security cameras trained on his house Recording everything sending videos to the cops when needed. Last week one of his “friends“ rammed their car into the house next-door while high.

2v8g8dv.jpg


The guy is using his backyard as a dumping ground and has built a couple of sheds back there all of which violate HOA and county codes. Last week, our neighborhood watch coordinator asked me to snap some shots of his backyard. I did and we sent them to the county and to the HOA Council. He was quickly cited by both and within 48 hours there was a rolloff in front of his house filled with debris.
Did we violate his “privacy“? No doubt but I don’t give a crap. We have to do everything we can to get rid of this guy, hopefully soon!
24edqgy.jpg
 

Flycaster

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Trust me, the Police are aware.....and waiting for them to do something that opens the door to an "Interview"....
 

DroningOn

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Trust me, the Police are aware.....and waiting for them to do something that opens the door to an "Interview"....
Are you referring to my dirtbag? Of course they’re aware. They just arrested him 2 months ago for fighting with one of his “guests”. He’s already on probation for a receiving stolen property conviction last year. The cops and courts have bigger fish to fry.

2vi5mx0.jpg


ETA: Here’s the “friend” walking away after crashing her car into the house. I tried talking to her but she couldn’t complete a sentence she was so high. I then talked to the cops and asked them why they didn’t arrest her and they shrugged and said “There’s nothing we can do, we didn’t see her do it“.
At the end of the day it is up to us to nail this guy and protect ourselves and if using the drone to help gather evidence is one of the ways to do it then so be it.
 
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The Raven

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I have a grey area question (or maybe its not so grey as I think)

In my town, there is a large group of neighbors that believe there is illegal activity happening on a large portion of private property. They unfortunately have no way of obtaining evidence of this activity, other than the use of a drone. The police have repeatedly said they have no evidence of illegal activity, however there is reason to believe the violators are using police scanners, which allows them to stop. (small town, so calls take time to get there.)

I could easily fly nearby directly up from a neighbors yard without being over the private property where this activity is reportedly happening, and likely obtain the evidence needed.

The issue is, is this a violation of privacy?
Would it be possible to be sued by these folks if caught?

Not only that, but as I hope to eventually use my drone for business purposes, do not want to sully my own name before that even happens.

So the question isn't just about the legality of using my drone to capture images of the activity, but also a "Would you do it?" opinion poll.

Thanks!

How about mind your own business and let the police mind theirs? Some tweaker is going to shoot your family and burn your house down if you get involved with **** that isn’t your business.

What is it about this hobby, and this forum, that attracts whackers? I swear some of you guys must drive Crown Vics festooned with antennas and blue lights.
 
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