Compromised? Drones over the island may leave some feeling vulnerable. *iStock photo/effect by Gary Foster Skelton
Compromised? Drones over the island may leave some feeling vulnerable. *iStock photo/effect by Gary Foster Skelton

Facebook erupted with concerns about privacy after Aerial Visual Solutions got the green light to operate a drone in Bermuda air space.

The company, which is owned by Donte Hunt, would conduct intelligence and surveillance and reconnaissance services over Bermuda’s waters. The firm said it could help in such areas as search and rescue, drug interdiction, assessing post hurricane damage and monitoring Bermuda’s exclusive economic zone.

Lauren Hayward-Bell was one of the people on Facebook who questioned the use of the drone with regards to privacy concerns.

The Bermudian mother pointed out that “drones could be used by both government and private companies (and individuals) to monitor people who are not only in a public space but also on private property or in their own homes.

Warrant

“At the very least, before any such government surveillance can be allowed to be conducted, a warrant should be required.” Ms Hayward-Bell added the recent push “to pen legislation in the US was partially triggered by the FBI being forced to admit to using drones to monitor private individuals.

“It must be our government’s responsibility to ensure that surveillance cameras are used to protect society rather than to spy on them. Without legislative guidelines, what is to prevent members of the community from using drones to police the police and to monitor our legislatures?” She also expressed concern regarding the use of photos taken by drones for financial gain without first getting the consent of persons in the photo.

Additionally, Ms Hayward- Bell said there are safety concerns as a UK teenager was killed when she was hit in the head with a drone and Australian triathlete was hospitalized after being hit by a drone filming the race.

Proactive

She said Government has stated that any privacy complaints or other issues stemming from the use of these drones will be monitored and addressed by the (Civil Aviation) Department. “We must ask ourselves if waiting to address complaints after the fact is how we want to be governed. Progressive, forward-thinking governments’ operate in a proactive mode and not a reactionary one.” Before granting any individual or private business the right to use drones as a means to provide “aerial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services”, the Bermuda government must first establish a clear legislative framework to ensure that individuals’ privacy rights are protected and any safety concerns are properly addressed.

In order to create this framework, our government must take the time to clearly define and then address any ethical, legal and regulatory issues that arise by allowing these drones to enter our private airspace.

Mr Hunt, who had a lengthy back-and-forth with some of the commentators on Facebook last week, told the Bermuda Sun that AVS is “committed to operating as good corporate citizens, with the highest level of morality and integrity. He said: “Our corporate policy, which is no different than any security company that installs and operates CCTV networks, ensures that we conduct business according to the legal framework of Bermuda and abide by Bermuda’s laws and statutes.” He added AVS would not jeopardize their business by accepting a contract and/or conduct operations that are in conflict to established legislation, laws or policies.” Mr Hunt assured the public his company’s aerial would be transparent to the public.

He was also aware of privacy concerns, which he said is “arguably at its highest level in the history of humanity.

“With the rapid and significant advances in technology... privacy concerns are certainly warranted, justified and at an all time high. In fact, it is encouraged that one have a keen sense of protecting their private space and personal information due to the seemingly countless circumstances in daily life that lends one susceptible to some sort of perceived or real invasion of one’s privacy.” Mr Hunt said many people have become numb to the accessibility of personal information thanks to Facebook and other forms of social media.

He added: “The moment we leave the confines of our home and venture into the public domain, our movements are often captured by CCTV. It is no wonder that persons guard themselves against (and are often in opposition to) new means of surveillance, intelligence and reconnaissance employed by governments, law enforcement agencies and militaries.” Here to stay He pointed out that tools designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) are here to stay and will increasingly be developed and be more sophisticated and the demand for such equipment and technology remains high and will continue to grow.

“When in the right hands, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) equipment / technology can save lives, make lives better, deter criminal activity, catch criminals, enlighten minds, protect property, aid in wildlife and environmental research etc. We all feel a little safer when we are in public and know that CCTV is present — particularly in suspect circumstances.

AVS’s philosophy is to harness technology for the greater good of society and the environment.”

* Correction: The name of the business was wrong in the print edition. It is Aerial Visual Solutions.