Protect the Right to Privacy

P11 By Peter Linehan

Target: Michael Peter Huerta, Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

Goal: Ensure that rules for domestic drone use include rules safeguarding privacy.

Drones began as tools for surveillance, and yet recently published rules for domestic drone flight contain no privacy regulations despite multiple reports regarding the threat of drones to privacy. The rules do require pilots to remain within the line of sight of their drones. However, some drones have the capacity to track dozens of people or vehicles up to 65 miles away. Furthermore, developments in imaging technology such as small, extremely high resolution cameras, infrared technology, and facial recognition software can make drones even more effective surveillance tools.

There are already regulations in place banning warrantless drone surveillance by law enforcement, but these regulations cover neither individuals nor corporations. There are laws covering voyeurism, harassment, stalking, and other surveillance, but these laws do not deal with the reality of drones. For instance, restraining orders against stalkers or abusive spouses are far less effective if that individual can surveil his/her victim from dozens of miles away. It is clear that there is a need for effective regulations regarding the threat to privacy presented by private drone flight. Sign our petition and demand that the FAA ensures that our privacy is protected.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Administrator Huerta,

I was disturbed to hear that none of the rules concerning private drone flight outlined by the FAA deal with the issue of privacy. With the development of gigapixel cameras, infrared technology, and facial recognition software, as well as the capacity of drones to track ‘targets’ up to 65 miles away, it is clear that the operation of drones in urban areas could well compromise the right to privacy.  I believe that there is a need for FAA regulations regarding the surveillance capacity of privately flown drones.

These regulations would be in line with the FAA’s longtime policies of regulating the parts used in aviation. Furthermore, a comprehensive registration system for drones could be implemented to ensure new technologies are not being used to commit crimes. There are laws against peeping toms, stalking, and other forms of harassment. However, without regulations regarding privacy, drones could undermine many of the basic forms of redress victims of harassment have against their harassers. I urge you to work with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to ensure our privacy rights are protected.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Peter Linehan

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