FAA Addresses Privacy in Domestic Drone Testing Rules, Leaves Out Specifics

November 7, 2013 12:36 pm

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WASHINGTON – The Federal Aviation Administration today announced its rules for the testing of domestic drones in six areas around the country. The rules say that the state or local agencies overseeing the test sites must have publicly available plans for privacy, data use, and data retention, and that privacy practices must be annually reviewed and open to public comments. However, the FAA did not specify what those privacy practices should be.

Christopher Calabrese, legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, had this reaction:

“The FAA has taken an important step by recognizing that the government must address privacy as drone use expands. Requiring public disclosures of data use and retention policies, as well as mandating audits, are needed and welcome safeguards. However, it’s crucial that as we move forward with drone use, those procedural protections are followed by concrete restrictions on how data from drones can be used and how long it can be stored. Congress must also weigh in on areas outside of the FAA’s authority, such as use by law enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security, which have the ability to use drones for invasive surveillance that must be kept in check.”

The ACLU supports a bipartisan House bill introduced by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) that would require law enforcement to get judicial approval before deploying domestic drones, and explicitly forbids arming them. The ACLU also supports a Senate bill introduced by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) that includes several privacy protections, including a warrant requirement for police surveillance with drones.

An analysis of state legislation passed on domestic drones this year is at:

A chart tracking all proposed drone legislation in 42 states is at:

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