Markey Drone Privacy Legislation to Prevent Flying Robots from Becoming Spying Robots

Contact: Eben Burnham-Snyder, Rep. Ed Markey, 202-225-2836

Congressman re-introduces drone legislation as national debate continues over expanded use

WASHINGTON (March 19, 2013) -- With tens of thousands of domestic commercial drone licenses expected to be handed out in the coming years, Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), co-Chair of the Bi-Partisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, today introduced updated legislation to ensure standards for informing the public and establish safeguards to protect the privacy of individuals from expanded use of drones. The bill will require privacy protection provisions relating to data collection and minimization, disclosure, warrant requirements for law enforcement, and enforcement measures in the licensing and operation of drones.

“As drones increasingly fill our skies, Americans must be afforded a level of privacy and protection from these aerial technologies,” said Rep. Markey. “My drone privacy bill provides transparency on the domestic use of drone aircraft and adds privacy protections that ensure this technology cannot be used to endlessly watch Americans. I look forward to working with my Congressional colleagues on this bi-partisan issue to ensure that strong personal privacy protections and public transparency measures are put in place now, before this technology is literally hovering over our heads.”

The Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act (DAPTA) would amend the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act, and this new version updates previous legislation introduced by Congressman Markey in 2012. A copy of the legislation can be found HERE. The FAA announced in February that it will be taking public comments on drone privacy as the agency develops its policies.

The major tenets of the Markey legislation include:

--FAA may not issue drone licenses unless the 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.

--Law enforcement agencies and their contractors and subcontractors must 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.

--Any surveillance by law enforcement agencies will require a warrant or extreme exigent circumstances.

--The FAA must 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.

Congressman Markey was joined by privacy groups today in his efforts to protect Americans from overly-invasive commercial drones.

"Comprehensive legislation is necessary prior to further deployment of drones in the United States,” said Amie Stepanovich, Associate Litigation Counsel, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). “Documents obtained by EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act make clear that there is a real threat to privacy that can no longer be ignored. Congressman Markey's bill will help address this challenge."

“Drone surveillance poses a real threat to privacy and civil liberties in the United States. Congressman Markey's bill adds much-needed transparency to the drone authorization process and mandates important restrictions that will help to protect Americans from unwarranted drone use," said Jennifer Lynch, Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers also issued a statement on the bill, saying, “The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) supports Congressman Markey’s efforts to safeguard Fourth Amendment interests in the digital age. This bill leaves the door open for law enforcement use of aerial drones while upholding the right of Americans to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Striking the proper balance between law enforcement interests and privacy interests, this bill is the first step in the right direction towards transparency and accountability in future drone use.”

In April last year, Reps. Markey and Joe Barton (R-Texas) sent a letter querying the FAA about the potential privacy implications of non-military drone use. The FAA response can be found HERE.

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