CRS — Domestic Drones and Privacy: A Primer (March 30, 2015) | Full Text Reports…

Domestic Drones and Privacy: A Primer (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

It has been three years since Congress enacted the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA), calling for the integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or “drones,” into the national airspace by September 2015. During that time, the substantive legal privacy framework relating to UAS on the federal level has remained relatively static: Congress has enacted no law explicitly regulating the potential privacy impacts of drone flights, the courts have had no occasion to rule on the constitutionality of drone surveillance, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) did not include privacy provisions in its proposed rule on small UAS. This issue, however, has not left the national radar. Congress has held hearings and introduced legislation concerning the potential privacy implications of domestic drone use; President Obama recently issued a directive to all federal agencies to assess the privacy impact of their drone operations; and almost half the states have enacted some form of drone legislation.

There are two overarching privacy issues implicated by domestic drone use. The first is defining what “privacy” means in the context of aerial surveillance.

The second predominant issue is which entity should be responsible for regulating drones and privacy.