The Stack Archive

U.S. government releases drone best practices

Fri 20 May 2016

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has released a document outlining privacy best practices for commercial and non-commercial drone use. The agency, along with stakeholders from drone companies and drone operators including Amazon, Google X, and others, compiled a list of voluntary best practices intended to protect the privacy of the public at large from data-gathering drones.

The paper, published on the NTIA website, recommends that operators of unmanned aircrafts have a privacy policy in place that covers data collection, retention, and sharing practices. The NTIA paper also provides guidance on reasonable limits on collecting data to protect expectations of privacy, and ‘administrative, technical and physical’ safeguards that should be put in place to protect the data that has been collected by the drones.

While the best practices outlined are completely voluntary, the NTIA did remind drone operators that they are required to comply with all federal, state and local regulations concerning the operation of unmanned aircraft. However, they made an exception to journalists and news media outlets whose rights are legally protected, saying, “Newsgatherers and news reporting organizations may use UAS in the same manner as any other comparable technology to capture, store, retain and use data or images in public spaces.”

In early 2015, President Obama instructed the NTIA to create a policy recommendation to promote the responsible use of drone technology. The agency reached a consensus with industry stakeholders from commercial operators (Amazon), the Future of Privacy Forum, and the News Media Coalition among others, to create the privacy protection considerations outlined in the paper.

The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), the world’s largest community of recreational drone operators, issued a statement in response to the NTIA’s best practices paper. In it, Dave Mathewson, executive director of the AMA, congratulated the NTIA on the new policy and noted that “a number of the newly released privacy best practices mirror the guidelines that AMA members have followed for decades.” He continued, “AMA members already follow a strict privacy policy that prohibits model aircraft from conducting aerial surveillance … unless given explicit permission from the owner.”

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drones government news politics US
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