Massachusetts Democrat Senator Ed Markey has introduced legislation that would amend the FAA Modernization and Reform Act to require law enforcement get warrants before using drones for surveillance purposes in the United States, except in extreme emergencies. According to Markey's office, the Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act, which seeks to regulate both government and commercial drone deployment, would also:
• Prohibit the FAA from issuing drone licenses 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.• Require law enforcement agencies and their contractors and subcontractors 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.• Require the FAA to create a publicly available website that lists all approved licenses and includes the data collection and data minimization statements, any data security breaches suffered by a licensee, and the times and locations of drone flights.
Bills like the Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act of 2013 assure that Americans’ privacy won’t go extinct in the 21st century. 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. Mass aerial surveillance threatens our fundamental privacy rights and Congress must act now to ensure it doesn’t become the norm in the United States.