In July 2014, US President Barack Obama issued an executive order mandating the development of privacy guidelines for drones operating in US airspace. This is intended to regulate only the private use of drones, and gave little or no disclosure regarding government use of drones domestically.
Over a dozen states have placed regulations on how law enforcement can use drones, usually requiring a warrant and time-based data deletion. Some state legislatures have started to consider additional laws regulating private use of drones.
Last year, President Obama charged the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), part of the Commerce Department, with developing the guidelines. The NTIA is not tasked with or capable of commenting on government use of drones, but they are working on regulations in the private sector.
The NTIA has experience working out technological privacy concerns. This agency worked with the tech sector to develop codes of conduct for mobile apps and is working on the same for facial recognition technology.
Government Surveillance and Privacy Rights
Government agents’ use of drones rightfully concerns civil liberties groups around the world. Groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the FAA in 2012 for information on drone flights in US airspace. What they uncovered indicated that drone flights in the US are planned to increase consistently.
Because the law is unclear, or nonexistent, when it comes to private and public use of drones, it looks as though their use will continue unchecked. Many advocates for private use of drones feel it improper to regulate their behavior without the government publishing their use of drones.
Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union have proposed guidelines for law enforcement agencies to follow when using drones. They advocate for clear guidelines published by legislatures, not law enforcement agencies.
Private Use of Drones Drawing Public Ire
Last year, the LA Times reported that LA Kings fans brought down and then destroyed a consumer-model drone at a Stanley Cup celebration. This is one of countless similar stories from recent years about the controversy surrounding private use of drones.
It was concluded in the above-cited incident that drone use in public is not illegal. However, it is considered offensive by many who believe it violates their privacy. On the other hand, there is no assumption of privacy in public places like the Los Angeles Staples Center.
The FAA estimates that there may be up 7,500 or more civilian drones in the air within the next five years. There are many examples of harassment complaints related to drones coming from National Parks, public beaches, and private residences.
The State of the Debate
Major think tanks, like the Brookings Institution, are analyzing the current regulations and social concerns related to drones. There are very real, though manageable, risks to privacy related to developments in drone technology for private use.
Secure your home in order to feel safe and protect yourself. As greater threats to privacy arise, it is important to have a security firm you can trust. Consider having a security professional analyze your privacy protection.