FAA Drone Privacy Rules

A President’s Day memorandum! On Feb 15, 2015 to US President Obama issued an Executive Order creating standards for how the Federal government will address the privacy issues associated with drones. “Drones may play a transformative role in fields as diverse as urban infrastructure management, farming, public safety…and disaster response.”  The Order acknowledges that drones […]

A President’s Day memorandum!

On Feb 15, 2015 to US President Obama issued an Executive Order creating standards for how the Federal government will address the privacy issues associated with drones.

“Drones may play a transformative role in fields as diverse as urban infrastructure management, farming, public safety…and disaster response.” 

The Order acknowledges that drones are a lower cost alternative to manned aircraft, and can reduce risks to human life.  However, the President’s directive seeks to take into account “not only our economic competitiveness and public safety, but also the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties concerns these systems may raise.”

Key Points

The Order notes that drones must only be used in a matter consistent with the Constitution, Federal law, and other applicable regulations and policies.  It also reaffirms that individuals have the right to seek access to and amendment of records associated with drone usage.
The Order requires that agencies only collect information “to the extent that such collection or use is consistent with and relevant to an authorized purpose.”  Information collected by drones that is not maintained in a system of records covered by the Privacy Act, shall not be disseminated outside the agency unless dissemination is required by law, or fulfills an authorized purpose and complies with agency requirements.  If information collected using drones contains personally identifiable information (PII) that information shall not be retained for more than 180 days unless the retention is determined to be: necessary to an authorized mission of the retaining agency, maintained in a system of records covered by the Privacy Act, or is required to be retained for a longer period by any other applicable law or regulation.
Specifically, the Order calls on agencies to ensure they have policies to prohibit collection, use, retention, or dissemination of data in a manner that would violate the First Amendment, or would illegally discriminate based on protected categories like ethnicity, race, gender, etc.  It also requires that drone related activities are performed in a manner consistent with the Constitution, applicable laws, Executive Orders, and other Presidential directives.  The Order also requires agencies to ensure they have in place a means to receive, investigate, and address privacy, civil rights and civil liberties complaints.
Agencies will be required to ensure their oversight procedures including audits or assessments, comply with existing policies and regulations.  Federal government personnel and contractors who work on drone programs will require rules of conduct and training, and procedures will need to be implemented for reporting suspected cases of misuse or abuse of drone technologies.
If agencies authorize the use of drones in response to requests from Federal, State, local, tribal or territorial government operations, it will need to be conducted pursuant to established policies and procedures.  Also, State, local, tribal or territorial government recipients of Federal grant funding for the purchase or use of drones will need to have in place policies and procedures to safeguard privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties prior to expending such funds.
The Order attempts to balance privacy with national security and law enforcement interests.  It requires agencies to provide notice to the public regarding where in the national airspace an agency’s drones are permitted to operate.  Agencies must also keep the public informed about their drone programs and any changes that would significantly affect privacy, civil rights, or civil liberties.   On an annual basis, agencies must also provide a general summary of their drone operations during the previous fiscal year. That summary must include a brief description of the types or categories of missions flown, and the number of times the agency provided assistance to other agencies, or State, local, tribal, or territorial governments.
The process will likely begin with a notification and a request for public comments regarding a privacy blueprint. That blueprint will be available for sixty days of commentary.  Following the receipt of comments, a notice will be published regarding a series of multi-stakeholder meetings.  Those stakeholder meetings are designed to create a set of consensus based rules — which may take up to a year to draf.  The final set of rules become what are known as a “voluntary, enforceable code of conduct.”

See this article for more detail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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