Tester, Baucus to FAA: Americans deserve privacy, transparency as drone industry grows
Senators press the Federal Aviation Administration for a comprehensive plan to uphold civil liberties, privacy rights
(U.S. SENATE) – Montana’s U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus are calling on the Federal Aviation Administration to uphold the civil liberties and privacy rights of Americans as it integrates drones into domestic airspace. In a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, Tester and Baucus urged the agency to produce a comprehensive plan to ensure individual privacy rights are not violated by the growing industry related to Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).
“We believe that the FAA has the responsibility to ensure that robust safeguards are in place to protect the privacy rights guaranteed under the constitution,” Tester and Baucus wrote. “Without appropriate guidance, UAS could pose a significant risk to this basic right, and American citizens deserve transparent policies to ensure that privacy rights and civil liberties will not be unjustly compromised by UAS use in domestic airspace.”
Tester and Baucus have long urged the Administration to protect the privacy rights of American citizens related to drone surveillance and in March pressed the U.S. Attorney General to provide greater transparency and accountability for the use of surveillance drones in the airspace above the United States. In that March 2013 letter to the U.S. Attorney General, the Senators acknowledged drones may be useful for fighting wildfires and aiding in search and rescue efforts, but say greater transparency is needed to ensure privacy rights of American citizens are protected.
Text of today’s letter to the FAA re: drone surveillance is available below and online HERE:
November 14, 2013
Administrator Michael P. Huerta
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20591
Dear Administrator Huerta,
We are writing to express concerns about the civil liberties and privacy rights of our constituents and the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), sometimes referred to as drones, in domestic airspace. In February 2012, President Obama signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act into law, which mandates the incorporation of UAS into domestic airspace by October 2015. We believe that the FAA has the responsibility to ensure that robust safeguards are in place to protect the privacy rights guaranteed under the constitution. Without appropriate guidance, UAS could pose a significant risk to this basic right, and American citizens deserve transparent policies to ensure that privacy rights and civil liberties will not be unjustly compromised by UAS use in domestic airspace.
UAS are a burgeoning industry within the aerospace field and have the potential to create many good paying jobs for hard-working Americans. However, it is important that the rules which govern their use in domestic airspace be developed and implemented with careful attention to privacy concerns. We call on FAA to have a comprehensive plan in place to ensure that individual privacy rights will not be violated.
We acknowledge that the FAA recently released its Final Privacy Requirements for the six test sites which will be the first areas in the nation to integrate drones into the National Airspace System (NAS). However, these regulations only apply to operations within the specific test sites and leave open the possibility of an ad hoc network of protocols. We request that you adopt comprehensive privacy rules governing drone use for the entire NAS and make them available for public comment and review. Thank you for your attention to this matter.