NTIA Working To Create Commercial & Private Drone Best Practice Guide

Published On August 6, 2015 | By Katherine Robison | General
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The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) continued its multi-stakeholder engagement process aimed at creating privacy, accountability, and transparency rules for the commercial and private use of unmanned aircraft systems (“UAS” or drones) by holding its first public stakeholder meeting on August 3. As we previously reported, the NTIA process stems from the White House’s February 15 Executive Order directing the group to initiate such a process.

During a public comment period, over 50 comments were received from interested parties in the commercial, academic, civil, and governmental sectors, including Amazon, the Center for Democracy & Technology, the Future of Privacy Forum, The Motion Picture Association of America, and The American Insurance Association.

Following the comment period, NTIA announced that it would hold public stakeholder meetings and that the comments received would be the basis of the group’s initial discussions.

The stated goal of the August 3 meeting was to initiate a stakeholder-driven dialogue regarding the issues raised by the commercial and private operation of UAS. The agenda included presentations and working group discussions aimed at establishing a common understanding of the privacy, transparency, and accountability issues that could be addressed by a set of best practices, providing an overview of the existing legal environment governing UAS operation, and establishing a framework for the NTIA-lead process going forward.

The facilitated stakeholder discussions centered on identification of priority issues and how to best address them. Such issues include privacy concerns such as notice, choice, data security, and the inclusion of a de-identification process for any information gathered by UAS. Also noted was the need to identify, train, and impose reporting obligations on UAS users.

There are currently no generally applicable privacy, accountability, or transparency standards governing the commercial and private use of UAS in the U.S. And current FAA standards governing UAS operations do not attempt to address such issues. In fact, the FAA represented that it does not have jurisdiction in this area.

If the NTIA process is successful, it could result in a set of voluntary best practices to fill this gap. But as NTIA made clear, the group does not seek to impose mandatory, enforceable guidelines in the area. Instead, the hope is that any best practices created will influence the development of UAS technology.

The next meeting is scheduled for September 24, with follow-up meetings currently scheduled for October 21 and November 20.

About The Author

Katherine’s practice concentrates on representing clients in litigation, with a focus on defending companies in complex privacy-related class action lawsuits. She also advises clients on compliance with federal and state privacy and security laws. Prior to joining ZwillGen, Katherine was counsel in the San Francisco office of O’Melveny & Myers LLP.