Legislators Re-Introduce Bill on UAS ‘Privacy and Transparency’

U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., have introduced bicameral legislation that they say would ensure the transparency and privacy of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations.

According to the lawmakers, who introduced a similar bill in the last Congress, the “Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act” aims to ensure standards for informing the public about the location, timing and ownership of drones.

“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,” states Markey, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. The senator has previously testified during UAS hearings, including one last March, when he brought up a “spies in the sky” aspect of drone use.

“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,” he adds. “I thank Rep. Welch for his partnership on this legislation that will help ensure that we’re not flying blind when it comes to drone privacy.”

Specifically, the bill would do the following:

  • Prohibit the Federal Aviation Administration (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; and
  • 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.

“As the presence of drones in our airspace becomes more commonplace, Americans are rightly growing concerned about their privacy,” says 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.”


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