Privacy laws are in urgent need of updating in order to protect the public form information-gathering by the thousands of civilian-owned drones expected to be flying in U.S. skies in the next decade, legal experts told a Senate panel Wednesday.
According to an article from The Associated Press, the unmanned aircraft have countless uses, from monitoring crops to acting as lookouts for SWAT teams, but federal and state privacy laws have been outpaced by advances in technology. Current privacy protections from aerial surveillance are based on court decisions from the 1980s, before the widespread drone use was anticipated.
Currently, manned helicopters and plane have the potential to do the same kinds of surveillance and intelligence-gathering as drones, but the unmanned craft can be flown more cheaply, for longer periods and at less risk to human life, which makes it more likely that surveillance will become widespread.
The Federal Aviation Administration recently predicted that 7,500 civilian drones will be in use within five years after the agency grants them greater access to U.S. skies. However, if Americans’ privacy concerns are not addressed first, the benefits of drone technology may go unrealized, experts say.
However, experts are divided on whether Congress needs to update federal privacy laws to set a national standard or to leave the responsibility to state lawmakers, AP reports.