A Seattle man ascended to a new level of creepiness recently when he flew a drone just a “few feet away” from a family’s home and defended his right to do so because he was flying it in the air, and thus not trespassing. He also claimed it was for research. The camera-equipped device emitted a loud noise, similar to that of a weed-whacker, which caught the attention of a woman inside.
She told Capitol Hill Seattle Blog that she saw the man on the sidewalk controlling the device near a third-story window in the eastern neighborhood. Her husband approached the man, who was standing on the sidewalk, and told him to desist from being creepy. The man told him that he was doing “research” and the camera was transmitting the images to his glasses. They called the police, but they didn’t show up since Inspector Gadget had already left.
“We are extremely concerned, as he could very easily be a criminal who plans to break into our house or a peeping-tom,” the wife told the hyperlocal blog.
Although this ordeal was undoubtedly suspicious, harrowing, and a breach of privacy, the man might’ve hovered his way into a legal gray area. As pointed out by the Atlantic, a 1946 Supreme Court ruling declared that the “air is a public highway.” But does that law extend to current day situations, like crazy people flying drones around? Well, that’s unclear since the details of the case (i.e. type of drone, how was it flown, where was the man exactly standing) are unclear.
The Atlantic adds:
As for the privacy concerns, one of the most important questions is what was being photographed. “If the camera on the drone was always aimed at the public street,” writes John Villasenor, a law expert, “then that’s very different than if it was capturing images into the home through the window.”
Regardless of the current laws, can’t we just be decent human beings and spy on our neighbors the old-fashioned way by hiding in the bushes?