Unmanned Aircraft Systems

On May 19, 2016, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) announced that its multistakeholder process to develop best practices to address privacy, transparency and accountability issues related to private and commercial use of unmanned aircraft systems (“UAS”) had concluded with the group reaching a consensus on a best practices document. As we previously reported, the NTIA announced in March 2015 the multistakeholder process in response to a Presidential Memorandum issued by the White House in February 2015, which directed NTIA to facilitate discussion between private sector entities to develop standards for commercial UAS use.
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As we previously reported, the Federal Aviation Administration’s (“FAA’s”) proposed “small drone rule” nears completion of the interagency review process, but one potential stumbling block has been removed, at least for now. On Tuesday, May 10, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit denied a request by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (“EPIC”) to review the FAA’s decision not to include privacy provisions in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“NPRM”), as well as its denial of an EPIC petition to the same effect. The court decided that there were no reasonable grounds for EPIC’s delay in filing for review of the FAA’s denial of EPIC’s 2012 petition that sought to cause the FAA to promulgate privacy regulations pertaining to drones. The court further concluded that EPIC’s challenge to the NPRM itself is premature, as the rule is not yet final.
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On April 28, 2015, the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill (SB 766) that prohibits businesses and government agencies from using drones to conduct surveillance by capturing images of private real property or individuals on such property without valid written consent under circumstances where a reasonable expectation of privacy exists.
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On March 31, 2015, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (“EPIC”) filed a petition (the “Petition”) with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit accusing the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) of unlawfully failing to include privacy rules in the FAA’s proposed framework of regulations for unmanned aircraft systems (“UAS”), otherwise known as drones. The Petition stems from the FAA’s November 2014 denial of another EPIC petition calling for the FAA to address the threat of privacy and civil liberties associated with the deployment of aerial drones within the U.S.

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