Last week, two interesting decisions were delivered by the EU and Swedish courts. The first was delivered by the Court of Justice of the European Union, which ruled that dynamic IP addresses can constitute personal data. The second was delivered by the Swedish Supreme Administrative Court, which decided that the use of cameras on drones in many situations requires a permit in accordance with the Swedish Camera Monitoring Act. While the outcome of the former decision was rather expected, the latter may have a serious impact on the drone industry.
Starting with the case regarding dynamic IP addresses, the Court of Justice of the European Union has previously declared that static IP addresses may constitute personal data. In its most recent judgment it found that dynamic IP addresses, meaning temporary IP addresses attributable to isolated internet connections and replaced when new connections are made, may be personal data too. An online media service provider had collected dynamic IP addresses and the question whether such IP addresses were to be considered personal data or not arose. The court found that if the company in a legal manner could gather additional information that made it possible for the company to identify individuals, the dynamic IP addresses were to be considered personal data. In this case, the support of additional data from the internet service providers made it possible to use users’ dynamic IP addresses to identify individuals. Therefore, despite the fact that it might not be possible to connect a dynamic IP address to an individual in general, as opposed to static IP addresses, dynamic IP addresses may constitute personal data and thus be subject to protection by the Data Protection Directive. The decision can be read in multiple languages here.
Turning to the drone case, the Swedish Supreme Administrative Court had been asked to consider whether or not cameras on drones constitute surveillance cameras under the Swedish Camera Monitoring Act. The court found that drone cameras meet the requirements for surveillance cameras under the act, since they are sufficiently installed, may be maneuvered from a distance and can be used to monitor individuals. The cameras may be directed towards places accessible by the public, and a permit is therefore required. This decision is likely to have significant impact on the use of camera drones. Many companies use camera drones for various purposes such as marketing, news reporting and movie making. These companies will now have to apply for permits and, depending on their use of the camera drones, may have to apply for several permits. Since the application for permission requires the payment of a fee and currently takes several months in Stockholm, it can be readily seen that the judgment will have considerable impact on these industries. It should also be noted that a considerable amount of applications today are rejected. It will be interesting to see how applications for use of camera drones will play out. The judgment in its entirety can be found in Swedish here.
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