Concerns over the potential for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to be used in ways that could violate individual privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties have impeded the timely implementation of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations needed to pave the way for widespread drone use.
Although UAS offer a number of important applications, from supporting disaster relief efforts and law enforcement operations to protecting the nation’s borders, the evolution of UAS technologies has raised a number of concerns, including the privacy and public safety concerns.
To address the privacy concerns associated with UAS integration into national airspace, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) established a working group to clarify the legal and policy issues associated with government use of UAS.
The DHS Working Group established a list of best practices for establishing UAS programs grounded in policies and procedures that are respectful of privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties.The best practices apply to DHS and other government agencies, as well as the private sector.
The DHS Working Group’s report stated, “The rapid changes in technology compel legal, privacy, and civil rights and civil liberties experts to continually review and update implementing documents (e.g., best practices, standard operating procedures, and policies) to properly reflect changes in the law, as well as advances in the technology and new applications of the technology. It is important for government entities to ensure that technology is not used in a manner that erodes or violates an individual’s statutory or constitutional rights.”
The best practices outlined by the DHS Working Group included:
“These best practices are not prescriptive, but represent an optimal approach to sustaining privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties throughout the lifecycle of an unmanned aircraft systems program,” the DHS Working Group stated.