HomeU.S. Commerce Agency To Develop Privacy Guidelines For Different Use Of Drones

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The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced a series of public meetings intended to develop privacy guidelines for private and commercial use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones. The “multi-stakeholder” meetings involving industry, academia and civil organizations aim to produce consensus on a draft best practices document.

The meetings will be held on August 3, September 24, October 21 and November 20, according to an NTIAnotification. The meetings are open to the public, and will take place in the boardroom of the American Institute of Architects in Washington, D.C. They will also be webcast.

President Barack Obama tasked the NTIA, an agency of the Department of Commerce, with developing best practices for “privacy, accountability and transparency” aspects of using drones in a presidential memorandum dated February 15.

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On the same day, the Federal Aviation Administration released a long-delayed notice of proposed rulemaking for the commercial use of small drones weighing less than 55 pounds. The FAA received 4,587 comments on the “small UAS” proposed rulemaking; it hopes to issue a final regulation early next year.

The NTIA conducted a public comment period on the process of developing privacy guidelines this spring andreceived 51 responses from individuals and organizations within government, the commercial market, academia and civil society.

In its meeting notification, the NTIA said it will seek to facilitate discussion among stakeholders “concerning a best practices document.” It suggests that stakeholders consider “freezing” the document, which it described as a draft code of conduct, following the November meeting to allow for an external review. The stakeholders would then reconvene in December or January to take account of the feedback, the agency said.

“We are looking forward to applying our experiences promoting multi-stakeholder policymaking in the Internet governance and privacy arenas to this effort to craft best practices for privacy, transparency, and accountability regarding UAS,” the NTIA said in a blog post accompanying the announcement. “As we have in other multi-stakeholder forums, NTIA will act as a neutral convener, with stakeholders driving the process and determining the content of the best practices.”

The process has recently experienced controversy. Last month, several privacy advocacy organizations withdrew from an NTIA multi-stakeholder effort to develop guidelines for companies that use facial recognition technology. “After 16 months of active engagement in the process, we decided this week it was no longer an effective use of our resources to continue in a process where companies wouldn’t even agree to the most modest measures to protect privacy,” one of those organizations, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, announced on June 16.