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drones55Is this a new form of high-tech voyeurism?

A building manager called police on Sunday after a Seattle woman spotted an unmanned aerial vehicle hovering outside the window of her apartment.

The men who were piloting the drone also were spotted carrying a tripod and video equipment, driving away before police arrived, reports our news partner KIRO Radio.

Interestingly, the men may not have broken any laws, since it is legal to take photographs and videos from public spaces. (Readers of GeekWire may know this based on our past coverage of the so-called “Creepy Cameraman.”)

That may seem a bit crazy, but Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts is attempting to push through legislation — the Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act — that would prevent drone operators from violating the privacy of others.

Just last week, Markey proposed an amendment that would require that certain privacy rules be followed when operating a drone, reports Roll Call.

Photo via Shutterstock
Photo via Shutterstock

“Before drones start delivering packages, we need the FAA to deliver privacy protections for the American public. Convenience should never trump constitutional protections,” Markey said earlier this year. “Before our skies teem with commercial drones, clear rules must be set that protect the privacy and safety of the public.”

The FAA today issued a clarification related to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, stating that they only be used for hobby or recreational purposes. Privacy was not directly discussed in the press release, though FAA Administrator Michael Huerta noted that the agency has a “mandate to protect the American people in the air and on the ground, and the public expects us to carry out that mission.”

Last week, The National Park Service instituted a temporary ban inside the 401 National Parks and Monuments in the U.S. And last summer, then Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn pulled the plug on a controversial drone program that was to be instituted by the Seattle police department.

UPDATE: A Portland company by the name of Skyris Imaging says that it operated the drone outside the apartment building in downtown Seattle, with CEO Joe Vaughn telling KGW in Portland that the drone was being used to photography skyline views used by architects, real estate agents and developers. Vaughn said he had permission from the property owner to operate the drone outside of the building.

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