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Hong Kong privacy commission says privacy concerns should not stop drones

Data protection fears should not be allowed to halt the development of technologies including drones, Hong Kong's privacy commissioner has said. 28 Sep 2016

Acknowledging concerns about the privacy implications of drones filming people without permission, privacy commissioner Stephen Wong Kai-yi told the South China Morning Post (SCMP) that regulators must take the intentions of users into account as well as the 'letter' of the law..

"We shouldn’t try to stop the creative industries, innovation or commercial activities unnecessarily," he told the SCMP. "We shouldn’t be intruding or hampering the activities."

Last year, an EU privacy body said that drone manufacturers can help the organisations wishing to operate them respect privacy rights by warning of the "potential intrusiveness" of their use.

The Article 29 Working Party, a committee made up of representatives from the national data protection authorities throughout the EU, said the manufacturers could put information on their packaging to tell operators where the use of drones is permitted. The manufacturers can also help account for privacy concerns in the use of drones by designing the devices with data protection in mind, it said.

New codes of conduct could be drawn up by drone manufacturers and operators to ensure data protection requirements are considered and addressed, it recommended. The codes could help "enhance the social acceptability of drones", it said.

In the UK, Amazon has announced plans to test the delivery of parcels using drones in trials the UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has said will help shape future regulation.

CAA policy director Tim Johnson said: "We want to enable the innovation that arises from the development of drone technology by safely integrating drones into the overall aviation system. These tests by Amazon will help inform our policy and future approach."

This week Amazon has been fined £65,000 by the CAA for breaching restrictions on shipping dangerous good, including flammable lithium ion batteries, by drone.