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Conference “Open Skies, Open Societies”

The Helsinki Foundation’s lawyers attended the conference “Open Skies, Open Societies: How Civil Society Can Use New Technology for Social Change”, which took place on 9 and 10 May in Budapest. The conference focused on the non-military usage of drones by journalists, activists and non-governmental organisations.

Various examples of the beneficial application of drones by representatives of the civic society were presented during the meeting. These examples included recording street demonstrations and use of the recordings for counting the number of participants, investigations of the scale of natural disasters or facilitating the work of investigative journalists.

HFHR’s Dorota Głowacka and Zuzanna Warso took part in a panel devoted to the legal aspects of drone use and their impact on the exercise of the right to privacy. Ms Głowacka presented a set of standards that can be used to regulated the use of drones, based on her review of the ECtHR’s case law on the collection of information by journalists which grossly interfered in the privacy of individuals. “The ECtHR is yet to directly address the subject in a case which would concern the use of drones by journalists. However, various rules have already been developed, for example those on the use of hidden cameras or covertly taken pictures. These rules could be used as references in the process of developing the guidelines for the use of drones, which would be consistent with journalism ethics”, Dorota Głowacka said.

Zuzanna Warso, the other HFHR’s lawyer attending the conference, talked about other threats to privacy arising from the use of drones. “The European Court of Human Rights developed guidelines on the use of CCTV in public places, at workplaces or on the use of surveillance tools by state authorities. These guidelines can serve as a basis for developing standards that may be used to assess the use drones in the context of respect for one’s privacy”, said Ms Warso.

Apart from taking part in the discussion panels and round-table discussions, the conference participants also attended practical classes during which experts taught crowd counting methods based on photographs taken by drones, as well as the basics of drone flying.

Atlatszo.hu, Hungary’s leading investigative journalism non-profit organisation was the main organizer of the event, which also received the financial support of the Visegrad Fund. The HFHR was a partner of the conference.

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