The drones are coming, But not just to your neighborhood skies – to the world’s oceans. From recreational robots designed to autonomously follow divers and record video of them to low-cost, remotely operated submersibles that put ocean exploration in the hands of the general public to sophisticated military submersibles able to autonomously gather intelligence throughout the oceans, the underwater drone market is exploding. But unlike on land, this explosion has not been accompanied by similar discussion of privacy concerns. Instead, the ocean’s rapid shift away from an inaccessible operational sanctuary is one that is happening largely silently. And it is one that is happening in an economically critical environment with far fewer legal protections in place than on land. This Article examines this monumental shift, exploring for the first time privacy and trade secret protections from underwater surveillance. I argue that privacy protections are already unconstitutionally eroded underwater and must be strengthened in the face of widespread drone use.
Annie Brett, Secrets of the Deep: Defining Privacy Underwater, 84 Mo. L. Rev. 47 (2019).