The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued agency-wide policy guidance on the domestic use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) – specifically, standards of use and management controls of the technology by the department and its components.
The DOJ notes that UAS are used at times by law enforcement agencies as cost-effective, efficient and potentially life-saving tools to support public safety efforts.
The policy highlights protections of privacy, civil rights and liberties and makes clear that UAS use must be consistent with the protections afforded by the U.S. Constitution. Justice Department components are barred from using UAS solely for the purpose of monitoring activities protected by the First Amendment, and components can operate UAS only on properly authorized investigations and activities.
The collection, retention and dissemination of information collected by UAS is also subject to Privacy Act protections, the DOJ adds.
To ensure accountability, the department will also require that personnel operating UAS are appropriately trained and supervised, including but not limited to a mandatory training on the department’s policies. Annual privacy reviews will be conducted to ensure compliance with the department policy, existing laws and regulations and to identify potential privacy risks.
According to the DOJ, the guidance issued is a result of various discussions and research; meetings will continue to be held at least twice a year to ensure that the department strikes the appropriate balance between its law enforcement and national security missions and respect for civil rights and civil liberties.
The full policy guidance can be found here.