In Australia, citizens are loath to accept the increasing prevalence of cameras, surveillance, and new technologies that require the individual to surrender their immediate location. We are tracked through our smart phones, our internet usage and, amazingly, by our household appliances! The proliferation of drones and their use by insurance companies and their ‘investigators’ is the latest in the invasion of our privacy. Partner and Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law, Jeremy Roche, discusses this important topic.
Privacy laws in Australia are lax and the privacy preferences of individual citizens are continually left in the wake of progressing technology and corporate marketing tactics. Australian citizens are increasingly concerned about companies (and others) breaching their privacy as individuals, harvesting their personal data, and using their private information for the purpose of increasing corporate market share.
Australians are particularly concerned about the rising pervasiveness of DRONES which can be flown by other individuals over your own house, backyard, or property and take continual/streaming video footage of everything you might be doing in the apparent comfort of your own home!
As discussed by Burger and Scuderi in Unmanned and Unregulated: Where are the Privacy Protections from Drones:
- With limited exceptions, if you are not a ‘covered entity’ (ie a Commonwealth government agency or business with over $3 million annual turnover) there are no specific obligations in relation to your collection or handling of personal information;
- Subject to some criminal/surveillance laws, you can collect anyone’s personal information and use it for any purpose;
- Surveillance laws in QLD only relate to listening devices – they do NOT apply to visual recording devices (eg cameras/video);
- There continues to be a gap in the Australian legal framework with respect to privacy and drone surveillance.
This “gap” in the law is currently being exploited by individuals and companies alike who use drones to collect footage and information about individual/private citizens with apparent impunity!
Insurance companies are now on the privacy exploitation bandwagon, retaining companies that utilise DRONES to follow around injured claimants (often in the comfort of their own yards, homes, high rise units, etc) to report back to the insurer about what that individual is doing. Injured claimants (ie those injured at work, in motor vehicle accidents, etc) or people claiming on their TPD Super policies, frequently report that they are being followed around in their daily lives by strangers at a distance (often in nearby van or vehicle) who take photos and record video of them from a distance before reporting back to the insurer. Of more concern is that injured claimants are now being subjected to DRONES being flown around their houses/units/yards which take footage of injured claimants inside their own homes! Naturally, it is disconcerting to be undertaking your normal daily activities (eg having a shower, undressing, etc) only to see a flying drone outside your window recording your movements.
Insurers bemoan their right to know with certainty the capabilities of an injured claimant , but surely Australian citizens (particularly injured victims!) deserve more individual privacy protection than that! It is fine for insurance companies to carry out due diligence and check the claims are genuine, but using Drones to spy on people in their own homes is taking it a bit too far.
In many cases, injured claimants already suffer from anxiety and other psychiatric conditions and their treating psychologists/psychiatrists frequently report that their patients’ psychiatric conditions have become worse because of insurer-commissioned surveillance.
Now, injured claimants are being subjected to the unsettling presence of DRONES in what should be their safe, private havens from interference to enable their recovery and rehabilitation. The Commonwealth and state governments should introduce specific legislation to deal with these privacy issues and the incidence/use of Drones.
If you have a compensation claim and are worried about covert surveillance and your privacy rights, please contact Department Manager Kelli Costin on direct line 07 5506 8220, Freecall 1800 621 071 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org for a free initial consultation and discuss our ‘no win no fee’ terms. We have a dedicated team of lawyers who specialise in this area of law and practice exclusively in personal injury claims.