Privacy Watchdog Says FAA Blind to Drone Intrusions

WASHINGTON (CN) – A digital-privacy watchdog has sued the federal government claiming it violates the law by not enforcing transparency obligations with drones.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center sued the Drone Advisory Committee of the Federal Aviation Administration, the RTCA Advisory Committee, and the U.S. Department of Transportation in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on April 11.

Represented by its in-house counsel, EPIC is joined by over 100 organizations and members of the public asking the agencies to issue privacy regulations in order to safeguard the American public’s interest with regards to drones.

EPIC says the FAA didn’t address privacy issues when it first designed its rules for drones.

“The integration of drones into the National Airspace System will adversely affect millions of Americans. Reports of drones threatening the safety of aircraft, civilians, first responders, and law enforcement officers – as well as reports of surveillance by drones on private property and “drone stalking” – are increasing,” the complaint states.

Drones are equipped with cameras and often record people without their knowledge or consent, and the FAA has “refused to promulgate generally applicable regulations to address the privacy risks posed by drones – even ignoring a congressional command to do so in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012,” the complaint continues.

In addition, sales of drones to the general public doubled between 2016 and 2017, the group says.

EPIC says the Drone Advisory Committee, which directly advises the FAA on drone deployment, has an obligation to propose drone risks and bring the public’s concerns to the FAA, which the committee is not doing.

“Defendants have also failed to make any DACSC or Task Group records from this period available for public inspection, apart from limited information presented to the DAC at its May 2017 meeting,” EPIC says.

The agencies failed to host to open meetings and provide the public with information about decisions regarding drones, which violates the Federal Advisory Committee Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

The Department of Transportation did not respond to a request for comment, and the FAA said it does not comment on pending litigation.

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