As I mentioned recently, lobbying by Boeing contributed to the defeat (for now) of drone privacy legislation in Washington state. In fact, we are starting to see a few of the many legislative proposals for regulating drones die in state legislatures (our updated chart on the status of such legislation is here). One of the reasons legislation has been shut down in some of these states is (poorly founded) concern that passing such protections will inhibit a state’s chances of winning one of the drone “test sites” that the FAA is in the process of awarding. Meanwhile, the drone industry association, the AUVSI, has also been opposing state privacy-protection bills, citing the unconvincing argument that existing laws and the courts are enough to ensure privacy. And drone boosters have always intimated that privacy rules will interfere with economic benefits that a booming drone industry will provide.
This is all quite misguided.
Even if privacy and moneymaking were directly at odds, policymakers should not sell out our dearest values, and allow our country to become a darker place for a short-term economic gain in one industry. Allowing our country to turn into some dark Pottersville will not be good for the happiness of our people, which is the only point of economic development anyway.
But in the end, for the most part, I really think the privacy and the economic benefits of drones are not at odds with each other—the one must be satisfied before the other can be fully realized.