Tester protects pilot privacy rights
Senator warns plan threatens privacy and business competition
(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester says a proposal from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to force non-commercial pilots to disclose unnecessary flight information is a threat to individual security and violates the privacy of general aviation companies and pilots.
Tester wrote to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to raise concerns over the proposed rule from the FAA. A bipartisan coalition of Senators signed the letter.
The FAA’s proposal would force general aviation pilots to disclose their aircraft movement, allowing public and for-profit flight tracking programs to track all general aviation flights–which threatens basic privacy rights and business competition.
Tester, a member of the Senate’s General Aviation Caucus, says the new policy violates the privacy of law-abiding pilots and is unnecessary because general aviation flights are already monitored and tracked by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other law enforcement agencies.
“If the proposed changes are put in place, anyone with a computer and easily accessible tracking technology can cyber-stalk owners or operators of general aviation aircraft,” Tester wrote. “We also are concerned that this decision sets a dangerous precedent for the ability of the government to disseminate the travel information of any citizen, regardless of the mode of transportation.”
“The Montana Pilot's Association fully supports Senator Tester's efforts to protect the privacy rights of general aviation pilots,” said Jon Hudson, President of the Montana Pilots’ Association. “The diminishment of any individual's or group's rights, in this case the right to privacy, represents the diminishment of every citizen's rights. There is no compelling need for this information to be made available to the general public. ”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable, and the American Civil Liberties Union have all expressed concerns over the FAA’s proposal.
Tester is a staunch advocate for protecting the privacy of law-abiding Americans. Earlier this month, he became the first U.S. Senator to question a new policy by the FBI allowing agents more leeway to search databases and launch investigations without proper justification.
Tester’s letter to the Secretary of Transportation is below and online HERE.
The Honorable Raymond H. LaHood
United States Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Mr. Secretary:
We are concerned about the Federal Aviation Administration’s proposal to allow public access to general aviation aircraft movements. This is a troubling reversal of a decade-old policy put in place to uphold the privacy rights of thousands of Americans.
In light of advances of for-profit flight tracking services, Congress included a provision in the 2000 FAA reauthorization bill enabling the Block Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program. This program provides owners of general aviation aircraft the ability to prevent the public dissemination of their aircraft movements. For reasons of individual security, privacy, and business competitiveness, this program is essential.
Claims have been made that revocation of this program is needed to promote greater transparency. While all Americans support an open and transparent government process, maintaining the BARR program is about the preservation of personal citizens’ right to privacy and has nothing to do with shedding light on our federal government. Others have also argued that this program enables operators of business aircraft to avoid detection from law enforcement. The Department of Homeland Security and other law enforcement agencies have always had the ability to monitor and track the location of users of the national airspace system, and this won’t change with the continuation of the BARR program. BARR simply prevents unauthorized, non-governmental actors from knowing the location of private citizens.
If the proposed changes are put in place, anyone with a computer and easily accessible tracking technology can cyber-stalk owners or operators of general aviation aircraft. We also are concerned that this decision sets a dangerous precedent for the ability of the government to disseminate the travel information of any citizen, regardless of the mode of transportation.
A wide range of groups have expressed concerns about the FAA’s proposal, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable, and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Lastly, the issue of the BARR program is currently being debated by the conferees on the FAA Reauthorization bill. It is premature to unilaterally implement a regulation on a legislative issue currently before Congress.
Thank you again for your consideration of this important issue. We look forward to your response, and working with you as we continue to create a regulatory environment for U.S. citizens that affords them the greatest protections under the Constitution.
Jon Tester, et al