Privacy ‘freaks’ cannot drive talks on ‘dronalism’, experts say


Drones are becoming increasingly prominent in civil aviation and are being repurposed for news media in potentially dangerous and inaccessible areas.

Also known as Remote Piloted Aircrafts (RPA’s), drones have a chequered usage history but new advancements could see that change.

As this militaristic technology becomes omnipresent in everyday life, several questions are being raised over gaps in current law to deal with the evolution of the technology.

drones privacy ethics debate
Drones are a hot topic given their increasing use, especially in the lead-up to the G20. Photo: Jenelle Stafford, The Source News, November 4, 2014.

But media law expert Dr David Goldberg said the heightened anxiety about RPA’s should not impede due process in formulating or progressing the use of the technology in civil aviation.

“I am very unconcerned about [privacy issues]. It’s an utter canard; it’s an utter red herring. We cannot let the privacy ‘freaks’, the privacy ‘lobby’, drive the discussion about the use or otherwise of drones,” Dr Goldberg said, speaking at the Drones, Privacy and Journalism symposium at Griffith University on Tuesday.

“It wasn’t the drone that invented the problem of taking people’s images; that has been something which has been done for decades through any available form of camera.”

Dr Goldberg warned that knee jerk reactions to regulating the use of RPA’s in news media could turn aviation authorities into de facto censorship bodies.

“I am concerned that the aviation regulator will, in effect, become a sort of indirect censorship body. Not directly… because they themselves are not used to dealing with the balancing argument,” he said.

Veteran ABC journalist Mark Corcoran outlined how the public broadcaster is self-regulating their use of remote piloted aircraft in drafting editorial policy.

“It’s important that we get it right. The ABC is the biggest media group in the country; we cover a whole – pretty broad church, as you know,” he said.

“I think it’s important to discuss and to separate what the ABC’s trying to do and what’s always been out there; people who have a ‘whatever it takes’ attitude.”

Dr Goldberg put the onus on readers of tabloid journalism in regards to the presence of any ‘ethical gaps’ that could arise under media law.

“Frankly, if there’s anyone who is responsible for ‘paparazzism’, it’s the market. It’s the people who buy and watch it, that’s the only reason, as we know, that there is any activity like that – because there’s a market for it,” he said.

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