Drones have changed a great deal in the last several years. Once entirely used for military and warfare purposes, consumer drones are mainstream and increasingly being used for commercial and recreational purposes. The uses of drones are endless: home builders, surveyors, and even lawyers are finding that drones, and the ability to do aerial photography and video, is an incredible tool.
This picture highlights a growing concern with drones: this new technology has an amazing ability to capture photographs and video that could not otherwise be seen before. Such use of aerial vehicles raises many legitimate concerns over privacy rights. Here, I want to discuss drone privacy law in Massachusetts and discuss what can be done if you have privacy concerns arising from another person’s use of a drone.
Drone Law in Massachusetts
Massachusetts, like most states, is still grappling with how to regulate drones. Presently, Massachusetts does not have a statewide law regulating drones. This isn’t surprising; many states similarly do not regulate drones, although there are many proposed laws in state legislatures across the country. Here in Massachusetts, some local towns and cities, such as Newton, have passed local ordinances on when and where drones can fly. It is fair to say, however, that drone law in Massachusetts is very much in its infancy.
Drones and Privacy
An increasing problem with drones are privacy concerns. It is increasingly common to hear complaints about drones flying too closely to homes and places of business and taking unwanted photos and videos. With the limited laws on drones in Massachusetts, what can be done if you feel your privacy is being invaded by a drone?
Massachusetts, unlike many states, provides a specific right to privacy for its residents:
A person shall have a right against unreasonable, substantial or serious interference with his privacy. The superior court shall have jurisdiction in equity to enforce such right and in connection therewith to award damages.
I’m not aware (yet) of anyone using this law in regards to a drone, but I suspect that Massachusetts’s Right of Privacy Act could be effective in dealing with the unreasonable use of a drone. This law, importantly, provides a court with equitable powers, allowing a court to issue an injunction, restraining order, or other declaration preventing someone from invading another’s privacy with a drone.
Once again, drone law in Massachusetts is new and it will be up to the courts to decide whether Massachusetts’s Right of Privacy Act and other existing laws cover drones. If you find yourself in need of assistance with one of these matters, contact me for a consultation.