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The Internet of Flying Things: Drones and Privacy

Posted in Drones, Privacy

Before modern aviation, control of airspace followed the maxim that “whoever owns the soil owns the air up to the heavens.”   This concept could not survive modern times, giving way to the FAA’s control over airspace.

And now this airspace will be crowded with drones (officially, UAS for “unmanned aircraft systems” or UAV for “unmanned aerial vehicles”).  Who regulates drone usage or the airspace they occupy is not at all settled, frustrating companies like Amazon.

One of the most contentious issues concerns drones and privacy.   Carrying high-powered cameras,  facial recognition technology or  license plate readers, drones present a substantial privacy risk.  This is particularly true because drones could be used for surveillance and the collection of consumer data for marketing purposes.

Traditional data protection statutes apply to the improper use of personal data. Even though about 17 states have passed drone legislation and more are considering it, they cover a wide spectrum of “what ifs” because no one knows  what the landscape (or airspace) on drones will look like.   (National Conference of State Legislatures)

A good read can be found in a 2013 Congressional Research Service report on the history of drones and issues such as privacy. ( Drones and Privacy. CRG Paper (2013) (01045874xAE57E)