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Invasion of privacy and drones: What can you do?

Drones are wonderful little toys that can bring out the inner kid in anybody. Unfortunately, they also sometimes bring out someone's inner creep.

Because many drones have high-definition cameras installed on them, they're capable of peering over fences and into windows -- generally invading the privacy of people in places that they expect that privacy to be sacred -- like their own bedrooms or fenced-in yards.

What can you do about it if a neighbor is using a drone in ways that you find invasive and offensive?

Believe it or not, you can't shoot it down, take a bat to it or otherwise attack the thing -- you can actually be arrested for something like that. The laws, by and large, haven't changed to keep up with the technology and a drone, believe it or not, is actually classified as an aircraft.

Instead, you can take your fight to civil court if the drone is genuinely invading your privacy -- the same way that any low-tech Peeping Tom might be handled.

To determine if your situation meets the requirements, consider the following:

1. Did you have an expectation of privacy where you were at that was objectively reasonable?

In other words, was it perfectly normal to expect that what you were saying or doing would remain private, if the drone hadn't been stalking you? Were you in your own bedroom? Were you behind a privacy fence that offered total seclusion except by air?

2. Was the drone's intrusion into your privacy enough that if would highly offend someone who was ordinarily reasonable?

For example, if your neighbor's child accidentally flew the drone over your fence, that might be annoying but not highly offensive. If the neighbor keeps flying the drone over your privacy fence, camera on because he knows your wife is sunbathing nude -- that's highly offensive. So is leaving the drone to hover by someone's bedroom window in hopes of capturing video of that person changing clothes.

The invasion of your privacy is considered a personal injury due to the emotional distress it inflicts upon the individual who is being harassed, photographed or recorded by the drone.

An attorney can help you learn more about your legal options if you have experienced an invasion of privacy by these latest examples of technology.

Source: FindLaw, "Invasion of Privacy," accessed Sep. 19, 2017

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