Domestic Drones and Privacy: A Primer [March 30, 2015]   [open pdf - 389KB]

"It has been three years since Congress enacted the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA), calling for the integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or 'drones,' into the national airspace by September 2015. During that time, the substantive legal privacy framework relating to UAS on the federal level has remained relatively static: Congress has enacted no law explicitly regulating the potential privacy impacts of drone flights, the courts have had no occasion to rule on the constitutionality of drone surveillance, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) did not include privacy provisions in its proposed rule on small UAS. […] There are two overarching privacy issues implicated by domestic drone use. The first is defining what 'privacy' means in the context of aerial surveillance. Privacy is an ambiguous term that can mean different things in different contexts. This becomes readily apparent when attempting to apply traditional privacy concepts such as personal control and secrecy to drone surveillance. Other, more nuanced privacy theories such as personal autonomy and anonymity must be explored to get a fuller understanding of the privacy risks posed by drone surveillance. […] The second predominant issue is which entity should be responsible for regulating drones and privacy. As the final arbiter of the Constitution, the courts are naturally looked upon to provide at least the floor of privacy protection from UAS surveillance, but as will be discussed in this report, under current law, this protection may be minimal. In addition to the courts, the executive branch likely has a role to play in regulating privacy and drones. While the FAA has taken on a relatively passive role in such regulation, the President's new privacy directive for government drone use and multi-stakeholder process for private use could create an initial framework for privacy regulations."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R43965
Public Domain
Retrieved From:
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html
Media Type:
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