Markey introduces drone privacy bill

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) on Tuesday introduced a bill that would establish a set of privacy safeguards that drone operators must follow and put limits on the surveillance they can conduct.

The measure proposes to amend the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act “to provide guidance and limitiations” on the expansion of non-military drone use in the United States, according to the bill. It would ensure that the FAA cannot issue a license to a drone operator unless they describe what kind of data the drone will collect, how that data will be used and how long it will be stored, among other information, in their license application.

Markey’s bill, called the Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act, would also require law enforcement agencies and their contractors to describe how they plan to minimize the collection and retention of data that’s unrelated to a crime investigation. It would also require the FAA to create a public website where it will list all the approved licenses for drone use, times and locations of drone flights, information about whether a drone operator suffered a security breach, and other data.

The measure would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before conducting surveillance, except in “exigent circumstances” such as “an imminent danger of death” or “a high risk of a terrorist attack by a specific individual or organization,” according to the bill.

“Drones should be used in accordance with privacy principles that protect Americans from unlawful surveillance and searches without their knowledge or permission,” Markey said in a statement.

Markey released a draft of the bill this summer. The latest version Markey introduced would provide consumers with rights to access and correct personal information swept up by drones, among other additions.

The FAA is currently developing rules to grant licenses to civilian operators. The bill notes that there could be as many as 30,000 drones flying in the U.S. in 2020.
The Hill, December 18, 2012