Legislation introduced in the Senate this week would add mandatory privacy controls and transparency provisions to existing legislation meant to guide the United States into an era of widespread government and commercial domestic drone use.
Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) has offered the Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act as an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act in a bid to— among other things— require warrants for law enforcement use of drones and limit commercial data collection.
Markey’s legislation would also prohibit the FAA from issuing drone permits to applicants unless the license application “includes a data collection statement that explains who will operate the drone, where the drone will be flown, what kind of data will be collected, how that data will be used, whether the information will be sold to third parties, and the period for which the information will be retained.”
With regard to law enforcement, Markey also seeks to require government agencies and their contractors to “include an additional data minimization statement that explains how they will minimize the collection and retention of data unrelated to the investigation of a crime.”
In an effort to expand transparency, Markey’s bill would also create a public website listing drone license approvals and details about planned data collection efforts using unmanned aerial vehicles.
The bill includes an exception for the provisions requiring warrants for law enforcement use of drones in events where there is imminent risk of death or serious injury or if the Nation is under attack by terrorists.
The FAA is currently developing domestic drone use laws by order of a 2012 mandate. While over 400 drone licenses have already been issued by the agency, the agency is working to have the guidelines fully in place by 2015.
Conservative estimates say that within the next five years, there could be upwards of 7,500 commercial drones in U.S. airspace.
“Bills like the Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act of 2013 assure that Americans’ privacy won’t go extinct in the 21st century,” Chris Calabrese of the American Civil Liberties Union said of Markey’s bill. “It is vital that we have comprehensive rules in place so that new technologies like drones are used in a responsible manner by both companies and the government before they blanket the skies.”