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Drone hovering outside midtown Toronto condo raises privacy concerns – Toronto

After Lisa Graston spotted a drone hovering outside the window of her midtown Toronto high-rise condominium for the third time, she alerted neighbours.

“It’s really unnerving and it really does sort of shatter any sense of privacy,” she said.

Graston managed to snap a photo of the white drone with four propellers from her balcony, some twenty floors above ground level.

“About six months ago, I had actually seen a drone at night twice, so probably within a two week period, and it was hovering around one of the buildings nearby and again, just hovering looking into the windows and at night that’s especially unnerving,” said Graston.

She posted on a neighbourhood Facebook group to warn others, with one person suggesting the drone could belong to a real estate firm filming the building exteriors.

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“Even if it is a real estate agent, even if it is somebody using it for non-nefarious purposes, they should still be informing the concierges and the building management in the area, so people can plan accordingly. Just like if somebody is washing the windows, you know, if you don’t want people to see in, you can close the blinds. Simple as that,” she said.

The former information and privacy commissioner of Ontario called for stronger measures to be taken when these types of activities are reported.

“That’s your personal privacy. You should be able to control that. So we have to say no to this,” said Ann Cavoukian, currently the executive director of the Global Privacy & Security by Design Centre.

“Things are changing for the worse. If anything, we actually need stronger privacy laws,” she said, adding “the information it collects can then be sold to data brokers and you’ve lost all control and privacy is all about control. Personal control relating to the use and disclosure of your personal information. No one else should have to have access to this.”

On Transport Canada’s website, there is a section on flying drones safely, “When you fly your drone, you’re sharing the skies with other drones and aircraft. Before you fly, understand the rules you must follow and review our safety tips.”

Legal requirements are listed and include the need for drone pilots to carry a valid drone pilot certificate while operating their drone, plus a reference to respecting “all other laws when flying your drone.”

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“A lot of these laws are under the jurisdiction of Transport and have to do with drones in more commercial or business capacities. A lot of these rules aren’t even rules at all and are more so guidelines or suggestions around how drone operators should use their technology,” said Daniel Konikoff, interim advocacy director for the Privacy, Technology and Surveillance Program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

“Something a little bit firmer in privacy legislation would be great,” he added.

Graston called the Toronto police non-emergency line and was advised to call 911 the next time she spots a drone lurking outside her window.

“It’s scary because not only is somebody looking in, but it’s not even like a Peeping Tom where you can identify the person right away, understand what they’re doing, understand where they are. This is some unnamed person in some unnamed location that’s staring in and not only staring in, but potentially recording you in your home and then keeping that recording,” she said.

Global News also contacted Toronto Police for guidance on how best to navigate this type of situation.

While its Communication Centre does not receive many calls related to drones, police advise, depending on the circumstances, calling 911 because it’s time sensitive and may involve mischief or voyeurism.

“There are all kinds of measures we should engage in even when we don’t have regulation. The people who are creating this technology should know better. You don’t use these drones to peer into people’s homes, residences, or collect personal information,” said Cavoukian.

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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