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Spits, 31 May 2013: 'From tomorrow everyone outlaws'

The ban on aerial photography expires tomorrow. And with it, anyone gets a free pass to snap people from heights. Privacy watchdogs are screaming blue murder. Where are we actually still safe from the eyes of others?

Welcome to the jungle
In US Virginia, they are fed up. There, a ban has been declared on unmanned aerial vehicles and helicopters, so-called drones. Only in exceptional cases are they allowed to be flown by the police. In our country, we take a very different approach. "We had really expected that things would be regulated in the Netherlands too. But what they are doing now is exactly the opposite. Allowing aerial photography creates a mess." Vincent Böhre is a lawyer at the Privacy First foundation and can already see the storm brewing. "Welcome to the jungle," is the message now being conveyed. "And have fun with it. Very strange what is happening. Mind you, it has to become a huge chaos first and then they will probably set rules after all."

Privacy First would like to see that changed. "The use of drones should be suspended, a moratorium. Then there should be a referendum and a look at what conditions they will or will not be allowed under. What do you think will happen now? Besides the accidents the planes cause by crashing on heads, we are going to have a lot of privacy accidents. People being photographed in their gardens, corporate espionage, you name it."

The decision to ban unlicensed aerial photography dates back to 1959. It was mainly meant to counter espionage. Now that Google Earth is putting the entire world on the internet from space anyway, it has been decided to scrap the permit requirement. "What a nonsense argument," says Böhre. "If Google jumps into the ditch, do we all have to?"

In fact, we are no longer safe anywhere. Especially when photos are used for personal (sexual) purposes, there is nothing left to do. Young people even create flying livestreams that they transmit directly to friends' computers or smartphones. It's all possible. "Of course the aerial photographer has to abide by privacy rules," says lawyer and privacy expert Arnoud Engelfriet. "But it is only publishing that can lead to problems. Context and newsworthiness thereby determine whether the right to publish outweighs privacy." Consent or objection from the person portrayed is therefore not decisive. "Suppose someone sees a robbery happening. Then that person may photograph the robber, no matter how many times he or she shouts that he or she does not want to. If someone uses a telephoto lens or a drone to photograph a couple kissing in the bushes, this may not be published; the privacy interest is too great, even if the bushes are on the public highway. On private property, privacy weighs more heavily, although even there it is not absolute. The news interest in publication must then be much greater, because on private property one normally feels unprotected," Engelfriet said.

Limits of the law
"In principle, it is now allowed to photograph from a helicopter, even on someone's private property. So that just does not mean that publication is always allowed. Whether the photo is taken from a car or from a plane. That used to be the same under the Aerial Photography Decree." Engelfriet does expect that as of tomorrow, the limits of the law will be pushed. "It is quite likely that we will now get a lot more of such privacy-sensitive aerial photos, for example from hobbyists with drones. With that, there will also be the necessary lawsuits about what is now allowed to be published and what is not."

Privacy First is also considering a lawsuit. Against the state. "It is not concrete yet, but we are considering it," he says. Lawyer Böhre acknowledges that good things can also be done with drones. "There should be a ban, with a note that the police can fly them in disasters or if a crime can be solved with them. That is much better than this unregulated deployment of small planes. That will be the Wild West. There is even technology that allows you to see through walls. That won't come into private hands so soon, but you never know.""

Source: Spits, 31 May 2013, pp. 2-3. Read HERE the full article at Spits News online.