Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) on Wednesday released a discussion draft of legislation that aims to add privacy protections and greater transparency to the authorization of aerial drone flights within the United States.
“When it comes to privacy protections for the American people, drones are flying blind,” Markey said in a statement.
The Federal Aviation Administration has currently authorized about 100 different entities to fly drones domestically. The number of law enforcement agencies and other entities authorized to use drones is expected to rapidly increase thanks to a FAA funding bill passed this year. The FAA plans to allow for the deployment of privately-operated drones within the United States by 2015 and as many as 30,000 drones could be in operation by 2020.
“Drones are already flying in U.S. airspace – with thousands more to come – but with no privacy protections or transparency measures in place,” Markey added. “We are entering a brave new world, and just because a company soon will be able to register a drone license shouldn’t mean that company can turn it into a cash register by selling consumer information.”
The congressman’s proposed legislation would require the FAA to include privacy considerations in its rulemaking process for drone licenses. It would also require the FAA to list all approved licenses on a publicly available website, along with the licensees’ data collection and data minimization statements.
There are hundreds of different models of drones, from large fixed-wing aircraft to a tiny drone called the Nano Hummingbird. The drones employ a wide range of surveillance technology, including high-power zoom lenses, infrared and ultraviolet imaging, see-through imaging and video analytics — a fact that has raised concerns among civil liberties advocates.
“We don’t want to live in country with ‘eyes in the sky’,” said Amie Stepanovich, Associate Litigation Counsel, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). “EPIC has petitioned the FAA to develop privacy safeguards, and we have urged Congress to crack down on surveillance by drones. Congressman Markey has introduced important legislation that will help protect a fundamental American right.”
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