One of the issues with drones as I’ve touched on before is their ability to invade a person’s privacy. Other than the FAA regulations, claims may be made against the drone operator under long-standing North Carolina law. Although other states may have additional protections, the privacy protection in North Carolina that may help against drones or other video surveillance is the melodious sounding claim of Intrusion into Seclusion. This claim provides that “one who intentionally intrudes, physically or otherwise, upon the solitude or seclusion of another or his private affairs or concerns, is subject to liability to the other for invasion of his privacy, if the intrusion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.” Restatement (2nd) Torts 652B.
In North Carolina, this claims has been applied to various facts including physically invading a home or other private place, eavesdropping by wiretaps or microphones, peering into windows, persistent telephoning, unauthorized prying into a bank account and opening someone’s mail. Usually, observation of any private property that is visible from a public area would not be intrusion into seclusion. Taking pictures of someone in their front yard would probably not be actionable while taking pictures of someone in their secluded back yard may be. A drone flyover over private property has not been considered by a North Carolina appellate court but it could certainly violate this type of invasion of privacy depending on where it flew, if it recorded video or photos and the reasons for the flyover.
-Bradley A. Coxe is a practicing attorney in Wilmington, NC who practices in Personal Injury, Car Accidents, Medical Malpractice, Contract and Real Estate disputes, and all forms of Civil Litigation. Please contact him at (910) 772-1678.