Legislation has been introduced to protect individual privacy from the growing number of government and commercial drones in use.
Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced the Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act to ensure standards for informing the public about the location, timing and ownership of unmanned aerial vehicles. The legislation also will require privacy protection provisions relating to data collection and minimization, disclosure, warrant requirements for law enforcement, and enforcement measures in the licensing and operation of drones. The FAA estimates that as many as 2,700,000 commercial unmanned aircraft systems will be sold each year in the United States by 2020. The lawmakers introduced similar legislation in the last Congress.
The Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act would:
- Prohibit the FAA from issuing drone licenses unless the license application includes a data collection statement that explains who will operate the drone, where the drone will be flown, what kind of data will be collected, how that data will be used, whether the information will be sold to third parties, and the period for which the information will be retained.
- Require law enforcement agencies and their contractors and subcontractors to include an additional data minimization statement that explains how they will minimize the collection and retention of data unrelated to the investigation of a crime.
- Require that any surveillance involving drones by law enforcement agencies will require a warrant or extreme exigent circumstances.
- Require the FAA to create a publicly available website that lists all approved licenses and includes the data collection and data minimization statements, any data security breaches suffered by a licensee, and the times and locations of drone flights.
“Drones flying overhead could collect very sensitive and personally identifiable information about millions of Americans, but right now, we don’t have sufficient safeguards in place to protect our privacy,” said Senator Markey, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “The Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act requires transparency in domestic drone use and adds privacy protections that ensure this technology cannot and will not be used to spy on Americans."
“As the presence of drones in our airspace becomes more commonplace, Americans are rightly growing concerned about their privacy,” added Rep. Welch. “Drones are a valuable tool for commerce, law enforcement, and public safety as well as a fun hobby. Our statutes must be updated to reflect the emergence of this soon-to-be ubiquitous technology to ensure privacy and transparency in their operation and use.”