Inside Housing – Commentary – Housing providers using drones for building surveys should be aware of legal risks

Another thing to consider is the type of drone being used and whether it has an “on” and “off” function, or if it records continuously.

It is much better from a data protection compliance point of view that only absolutely necessary footage is recorded, so turning the drone on when it arrives on the roof would limit the footage, for example, and could mean that no personal data is captured at all.

The security of captured data is also a primary consideration. Does the drone connect or interface with other technologies? How is the data secured? Is it on the camera itself or is it transferred to another computer?

The most important thing is to ensure that the data is secure if the drone breaks down and is picked up by an unknown third party.

Finally, are there protective measures in place in the drone itself, such as a limited field of view or recording only at certain altitudes? These are all things to consider and note in a DPIA.

If a group of residents wanted to stop their owner from using a drone, they could ultimately seek injunctive relief, arguing that their privacy was being violated. However, if the use of the drone is restricted as described above, a legal tender of this nature is unlikely to succeed.

If a social owner were to capture data they weren’t allowed to, it could be reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office and the provider could be fined. However, if all the above procedures are followed, this would also be extremely unlikely.

Drones are definitely here to stay and they can make building surveying much easier, faster and cheaper. However, it is important for the housing sector to follow a few simple steps to avoid any potential fallout from residents.

Samantha Grix, Partner, Devonshires

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