White House Releases Executive Order on UAS Privacy

Posted by Betsy Lillian on February 17, 2015 No Comments
Categories : Policy & Regulations

On the same day the Federal Aviation Administration issued the proposed rules for small commercial unmanned aerial systems, President Barack Obama issued a memorandum on privacy issues and government use of UAS.

As UAS are integrated into the National Airspace System, the federal government will take steps to ensure that the integration takes into account not only the U.S.’ economic competitiveness and public safety, but also the privacy, civil rights and civil liberties concerns these systems may raise, according to the notice.

The Small UAV Coalition says it welcomes this executive order, which creates guidelines for the government use of drones and sets up a multistakeholder process led by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to establish best practices for commercial and private operators.

The coalition says it plans to be a key participant in the upcoming NTIA multistakeholder process. “Privacy and safety are of utmost importance to the members of the Small UAV Coalition,’ says Michael Drobac, executive director.

UAS technology continues to improve rapidly, the White House says. Thus, UAS are increasingly able to perform a variety of missions with greater operational flexibility and at a lower cost than comparable manned aircraft. Congress recognized the potential wide-ranging benefits of UAS operations within the U.S. in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which requires a plan to safely integrate civil UAS into the NAS by Sept. 30, 2015.

The Small UAV Coalition says it especially applauds the Obama administration’s emphasis on abiding by current privacy rules. Laws exist today to protect consumers, and the coalition encourages all operators – public and private – to adhere to them.

Particularly in light of the diverse potential uses of UAS in the NAS, expected advancements in UAS technologies and the anticipated increase in UAS use in the future, the federal government says it will take steps to ensure that privacy protections and policies relative to UAS continue to keep pace with these developments, the notice says.

As with information collected by the federal government using any technology – where UAS is the platform for collection – information must be collected, used, retained and disseminated consistent with the Constitution, federal law, and other applicable regulations and policies.

Agencies must, for example, comply with the Privacy Act of 1974, which, among other things, restricts the collection and dissemination of individuals' information that is maintained in systems of records, including personally identifiable information, according to the memorandum.

The full report can be found here.

Read about the FAA’s proposed rules for small UAS here.

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