FAA: Drone Operators Have Zero Privacy Obligations

Paul Joseph Watson
November 30, 2012

In a response to questions from lawmakers, the Federal Aviation Authority admitted that surveillance drone operators have zero privacy obligations, prompting Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) to complain that the federal agency is greasing the skids for authorities to gather private information on regular Americans.

Markey and Barton, who co-chair the congressional privacy caucus, sent a letter to the FAA seven months ago demanding to know what privacy protections the agency was putting in place in anticipation of granting approval for commercial groups to fly drones from 2015 onwards.

In its reply (PDF) , the federal agency responded to a question asking whether drone operators had to follow guidelines that address privacy concerns by stating, “The FAA’s primary mission is ensuring safety of the NAS (National AIrspace System).” While acknowledging that there were “privacy concerns related to UAS operations,” the agency did not indicate that it would mandate drone operators to follow any privacy rules.

Four additional questions on how the FAA plans to protect privacy rights are also included under question 7 in the letter. However, the FAA’s response to all of them is a single glib paragraph which merely repeats that “privacy concerns” are an issue but fails to identify what the agency will do to uphold them.

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