Skip to Content

Government Surveillance, Privacy & Data

Privacy and Civil Liberties Protections at Heart of NTIA Best Practices for Drones

Today the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) shared a consensus set of voluntary best practices for for commercial and private use of unmanned aircraft systems or drones. The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) participated in the multistakeholder process that resulted in the guidelines, which reflect input from civil society organizations, industry, and government entities.

“Drone technology has the potential to revolutionize many parts of our lives, including how news is gathered, food is delivered, and wildlife sanctuaries are monitored. Yet drones also present a very real threat to our privacy rights if left unchecked. As the nascent drone industry is starting to take-off, adopting these best practices will help ensure that drones fly safely, ethically, and respectfully,” said Chris Calabrese, CDT Vice President of Policy.

The consensus document for voluntary best practices provides privacy and civil liberties protections in a number of ways:

  • They restrict persistent and continuous collection of data about individuals,
  • They require drone operators to minimize operations over or within private property without consent of the property owner or appropriate legal authority,
  • They require drone operators to have a detailed data collection policy and to limit data collection to what is outlined in that policy,
  • They require drone operators to avoid retaining data longer than reasonably necessary and to give people control over data that concerns them, and
  • They encourage drone operators to avoid using or sharing covered data for marketing purposes without consent of the data subject.

“These best practices are an incredible example of the progress that can be made when civil society, the government, and businesses work together to find solutions. Hopefully the broader drone industry and hobbyists alike will embrace these best practices,” Calabrese added.

CDT developed its own set of best practices for the use of drones in December 2015. Many of CDT’s recommendations are reflected in the NTIA best practices.

The NTIA launched the multistakeholder process on drones in 2015, bringing together a diverse group to find workable solutions to the privacy and civil liberties challenges. Core participants included Amazon, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the Consumer Technology Association, CTIA – the Wireless Association, the Future of Privacy Forum, New America’s Open Technology Institute, PrecisionHawk, the Small UAV Coalition, and X (formerly Google[x]).