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U.S. passes new legislation for civilian UAVs

December 18, 2012  By Carey Fredericks

Dec. 18, 2012, Washington, D.C. - Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), co-Chair of the Bi-Partisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, today introduced legislation to ensure standards for informing the public and establish safeguards to protect the privacy of individuals as the federal government develops a comprehensive plan for the use of drones in U.S. airspace.

H.R. 6676, the Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act (DAPTA)
amends the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and
Reform Act to include privacy protection provisions relating to data
collection and minimization, disclosure, warrant requirements for law
enforcement, and enforcement measures in the licensing and operation of 
“unmanned aircraft systems”, commonly known as drones. While there are
many beneficial uses of drones – from spotting wildfires to assessing
natural disasters – there is also the potential for misuse and invasive
surveillance of daily activities. Many drones are designed to carry
equipment such as video cameras, infrared thermal imagers, radar, and
wireless network “sniffers”, with the capability to collect sensitive
detailed information while operating in the skies above. The FAA has
already begun issuing limited drone certifications for government
entities and educational institutions.
“Drones should be used in accordance with privacy principles that
protect Americans from unlawful surveillance and searches without their
knowledge or permission,” said Rep. Markey. “The Drone Aircraft Privacy
and Transparency Act will ensure strong personal privacy protections and
public transparency measures are in place at the beginning of the use
of this new technology, not as an afterthought. I look forward to
working with my Congressional colleagues on a bi-partisan basis to
advance this important legislation to ensure that these ‘eyes in the
skies’ don’t become ‘spies in the skies’.”
A copy of the Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act can be found here.
Specifically, DAPTA amends the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, adding the following provisions:
FAA may not issue drone licenses unless the 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.
Law enforcement agencies and their contractors and subcontractors must
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.
Any surveillance by law enforcement agencies will require a warrant or extreme exigent circumstances.
The FAA must 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.
“The increased use of drones in the United States should be accompanied
by increased privacy protections,” said Amie Stepanovich, Associate
Litigation Counsel, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). “EPIC
has petitioned the FAA to address this challenge but the agency has
failed to Act. We support Congressman Markey’s efforts to address this
“EFF continues to support Congressman Markey’s efforts to build privacy
protections and greater transparency into the drone authorization
process,” said Jennifer Lynch, Electronic Frontier Foundation. “The
Congressman's new drone privacy bill adds much-needed safeguards to the
2012 FAA Modernization Act and will help to protect Americans from
unwarranted drone surveillance.”


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