I haven’t written in some time, and so again I take up the pen. Like the wayward son away at college, I know I’ve gotta let mom know that I’m not in jail, and I’m attending classes.
This article is a story – with a purpose. Last year, two neighbors changed their minds about whether or not they could stand the sight of each other, or more precisely, one neighbor changed his mind. Perhaps not the other.
Dick and Jane lived next door to Harry and Alice. At first that was very good. But then Harry got angry with Dick or maybe the other way around, and Harry built a privacy fence separating their adjacent backyards. Jane took offense and she erected a camera 20 feet up on the highest part of her house that looked directly over into the backyard of Harry and Alice.
The record contains no evidence of whether she was monitoring Harry or Alice, or what part of either she was looking at. But whatever there was, Alice saw it all. A trial court said they had nothing to hide. (I personally thought the court should have been a bit more charitable and said that whatever there was it should have been hidden inside the home, not in the backyard. In any event, it appears now that Harry will go through life suffering the ignominy of a circuit court order that strongly implies that after reviewing the evidence, Harry had nothing to hide.) The trial court said that a neighbor could look over into that yard from their second-floor window, so there is really no difference. This overview is simply what neighbors do. One more reason, you might say, you should be careful where you hide those tattoos. Your neighbor will know where they are.
That the neighbors could see the ends of both Harry and Alice could have been the end of the story. But, alas, the appellate court covered for the trial court. On appeal the court said, “not so fast.” Florida citizens have a constitutional right of privacy, and this camera is more than an occasional shot across the border. Dick and Jane have institutionalized an effort to continuously monitor their neighbor in an area where the neighbors clearly intended some degree of privacy. The court said the camera is more than an occasional, incidental peek from a place where a neighbor might ordinarily be expected to be. This camera was declared to be an illegal intrusion into his neighbors’ expected zone of privacy.
My guess is you can expect the same outcome for snooping drone flights or any other high-tech method of invasion. Anytime a reasonable person would assume that another has created a reasonable zone of privacy, others will trigger a legal cause of action by intentionally violating that privacy.