Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones

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  • EPIC to Senate Committee: Press FAA on Drone Privacy: Prior to a hearing on "New Entrants in the National Airspace," EPIC has urged the Senate Commerce Committee to ensure that the FAA establish drone privacy safeguards. EPIC also said the FAA should require remote identification of drones. "Currently, individuals cannot hold drone operators accountable because it is essentially impossible to identify the drone or the operator of a drone," EPIC said. EPIC recently filed comments on the FAA's proposal for external ID for drones. Last week, Senators Edward Markey (D-MA) and John Thune (R-SD) urged the FAA to quickly publish a rule for the realtime, remote identification of drones. In 2012 EPIC, backed by more than one hundred organizations and privacy experts, petitioned the agency to establish privacy safeguards for drones. EPIC also cited a 2012 law requiring the FAA to develop a "comprehensive plan" for drone deployment. EPIC subsequently filed suit against the FAA, challenging the agency rule authorizing commercial drone operations without privacy safeguards. (May. 9, 2019)
  • Senators Urge FAA to Require Realtime Remote Identification for Drones: In a letter to the FAA, Senators Edward Markey (D-MA) and John Thune (R-SD) urged the agency to quickly publish a rule for the realtime, remote identification of drones. The senators wrote, "remote identification will enhance safety, security, and privacy." EPIC has long called for remote identification requirement for drones, stating "Because drones present substantial privacy and safety risks, EPIC recommends that the FAA require any drone operating in the national airspace system to broadcast location when aloft (latitude, longitude, and altitude), course, speed over ground, as well as owner identifying information and contact information[.]" EPIC cited similar requirements for vessels and planes, and explained that the technology is widely available. Most recently, EPIC repeated its call for remote identification in response to a proposed rule that would allow drones to fly over people. (May. 3, 2019)
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  • EPIC to FAA: Mandate Drones Broadcast ID and Location, Course » (Apr. 16, 2019)
    In response to Federal Aviation Administration request for comments regarding drone security and drones flying over people, EPIC urged the agency to mandate cybersecurity safeguards and privacy protections for populated areas subject to aerial surveillance. EPIC repeated the earlier recommendation that the agency require drones to broadcast identifying information, location, course, purpose, and surveillance capabilities. Earlier this year, Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) stated, "Privacy cannot be an afterthought as the FAA seeks to make it easier and safer for commercial drones to take flight." Starting with a 2012 petition, EPIC has recommended that the FAA establish drone privacy regulations and to ensure that drones broadcast ID.
  • EPIC FOIA: EPIC Obtains DHS Drone Status Report » (Apr. 11, 2019)
    Through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, EPIC has obtained the DHS drone status report required by a Presidential Memorandum. The 2015 Memorandum required federal agencies to detail drone policies and procedures to protect privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties. The DHS report attempts to justify the use of drones by Customs and Border Protection, but a recent Inspector General report calls into question the CBP's policies and procedures. The Inspector General found that CBP failed to complete a required analysis for a drone surveillance system and failed to implement effective safeguards for information collected by drones. EPIC has called on Congress to "establish drone privacy safeguards that limit the risk of public surveillance."
  • EPIC to House Committee: Press FAA on Drone Privacy » (Apr. 9, 2019)
    As the House Appropriations Committee considers the Department of Transportation's FY2020 Budget, EPIC has urged the Committee to ensure that the FAA establish and publish drone privacy procedures as required by law. EPIC also said the FAA must require remote identification of drones. "Currently, individuals cannot hold drone operators accountable because it is essentially impossible to identify the drone or the operator of a drone," EPIC said. Last month, EPIC filed comments on the FAA's interim final rule for external ID for drones. In 2012 EPIC, backed by more than one hundred organizations and privacy experts, petitioned the agency to establish privacy safeguards for drones. EPIC also cited a 2012 law requiring the FAA to develop a "comprehensive plan" for drone deployment. EPIC subsequently filed suit against the FAA, challenging the 2016 rule authorizing commercial drone operations without any privacy safeguards.
  • EPIC Urges FAA to Require Remote ID for Drones » (Mar. 15, 2019)
    EPIC, joined by other privacy groups, submitted comments on the FAA’s interim final rule for external ID for drones. The proposal requires the external display of registration numbers on drones. While EPIC agreed external marking are preferable to hidden identifiers, EPIC said the rule did not go far enough. EPIC wrote, “Because drones present substantial privacy and safety risks, EPIC recommends that the FAA require any drone operating in the national airspace system to broadcast location when aloft (latitude, longitude, and altitude), course, speed over ground, as well as owner identifying information and contact information[.]” EPIC also suggested the agency require operators register and broadcast surveillance capabilities. EPIC has long advocated for remote identification mandates for drones and petitioned for regulation of these surveillance tools.
  • Court Greenlights EPIC Suit Against Drone Advisory Committee » (Feb. 25, 2019)
    A federal court in Washington, D.C. has ruled that EPIC's open government case against the FAA's Drone Advisory Committee can go forward. EPIC filed suit last year against the Committee, which has conducted much of its work in secret and ignored the privacy risks posed by the deployment of drones—even after identifying privacy as a top public concern. The government asked the court to dismiss EPIC's suit, but the court was "unconvinced by Defendants' arguments" and indicated that the government must "provide the full list of [Committee] records" to EPIC. However, the Court ruled that the Committee did not need to release the records of its secretive subcommittees. EPIC intends to challenge that part of the court's decision. The case is EPIC v. Drone Advisory Committee, No. 18-833 (D.D.C.).
  • FAA to Require Visible Registration Numbers on Drones » (Feb. 21, 2019)
    The Federal Aviation Administration has published an interim final rule that will require a visible registration number on the exterior of drones. Previously, registration numbers could be hidden inside drones. EPIC supported improved drone identification, but has urged the FAA to go much further. In extensive comments to the FAA, EPIC wrote that drones should broadcast location, course, and operator identification, much like the Automated Identification Systems for planes and boats. EPIC also sued the FAA to force the agency to establish national rules to limit drone surveillance. EPIC is currently pursuing records about a key FAA task force, trying to understand why the agency has not promoted better privacy safeguards in the US. Comments on the FAA rule on "External Marking Requirement for Small Unmanned Aircraft" are due March 15, 2019 (Docket: FAA-2018-1084). EPIC recommends that commentators ask the FAA to establish stronger requirements for remote identification of drones.
  • EPIC Commends FAA Comment Opportunity on Aircraft Security, Urges More Public Reporting » (Jan. 8, 2019)
    In comments to the Federal Aviation Administration, EPIC praised the agency for inviting public input on technology that exposes aircraft control networks to remote hacking. EPIC previously warned the FAA that, "hackers can exploit weaknesses in drone software to gain control of a drone's movement and other features." EPIC has also called attention to the potential for connected cars and Internet of Things devices to be hacked. EPIC recommended that the FAA routinely report on the growing risks of cyber attack.
  • Facing EPIC Lawsuit, FAA Scraps Secretive Drone Committees » (Nov. 15, 2018)
    The FAA's Drone Advisory Committee, facing an open government lawsuit from EPIC, has scrapped the secretive committees that developed drone policy. EPIC filed a lawsuit challenging the closed-door meetings with agency officials and industry reps. EPIC also charged that the FAA ignored the privacy risks posed by the deployment of drones—even after identifying privacy as a top public concern. The FAA acknowledged that the committees provided policy advice, but the FAA failed to comply with open government laws. EPIC has a long history of promoting government transparency and advocating for privacy protections against drones.
  • FAA Funding Bill Passed by Senate Ignores Drone Surveillance Risks » (Oct. 3, 2018)
    The Senate has passed legislation to reauthorize the FAA and expand drone integration, but the bill ignores pressing concerns about the privacy impact of drones. A previous version of the bill included privacy protections originally proposed by Sen. Markey and Rep. Welch in the Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act. The version passed by the House and Senate only requires a report on drone surveillance risks but does not establish any baseline privacy safeguards. The bill now goes to the President's desk. EPIC has repeatedly urged both Congress and the FAA to take decisive action to limit the use of drones for surveillance and to establish a national database detailing drone surveillance capabilities. EPIC sued the FAA to establish privacy rules for drones, after more than 100 experts and organizations petitioned the agency.
  • Government Report: Border Drones Lack Effective Privacy Safeguards » (Oct. 1, 2018)
    An Inspector General report has found that a federal agency failed to establish privacy safeguards for sensitive drone communications. Customs and Border Control did not complete a privacy threshold analysis and sidestepped review by the agency privacy office. According to the IG report, the CBP also collected and stored surveillance data that "remained unprotected for more than 2 years." Through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, EPIC obtained a related CBP directive on Unmanned Aircraft System Operations and Privacy. In a recent statement to Congress, EPIC highlighted the unique threat drones pose to privacy and said that the Congress should "establish drone privacy safeguards that limit the risk of public surveillance" before granting new authority to federal agencies.
  • FAA Funding Bill Ignores Drone Surveillance Risks » (Sep. 25, 2018)
    Congress is considering legislation to reauthorize the FAA and expand drone integration, but the bill ignores pressing concerns about the privacy impact of drones. A previous version of the bill included privacy protections originally proposed by Sen. Markey and Rep. Welch in the Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act. The pending bill only requires a report on drone surveillance risks but does not establish any baseline privacy safeguards. EPIC has repeatedly urged both Congress and the FAA to take decisive action to limit the use of drones for surveillance and to establish a national database detailing drone surveillance capabilities. EPIC sued the FAA to establish privacy rules for drones, after more than 100 experts and organizations petitioned the agency.
  • EPIC FOIA: EPIC Obtains CBP Drone Operations and Privacy Directive » (Jul. 20, 2018)
    Through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, EPIC obtained Customs and Border Protection's directive on Unmanned Aircraft System Operations and Privacy. The directive allows the agency to disseminate information collected through drone operations with federal, state, local, tribal, and foreign law enforcement agencies. EPIC's FOIA request stems from 2015 Presidential Memorandum that requires all federal agencies to develop and publish policies and procedures that address the privacy, civil liberties, and civil right issues posed by the use of drones. EPIC recently sent a statement to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, urging the Committee to not consider a S. 2836, Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018: Countering Malicious Drones, until all federal agencies establish drone privacy procedures.
  • Federal Court Upholds Regulations for Drone Hobbyists » (Jul. 13, 2018)
    In a companion case to EPIC v. FAA, the D.C. Circuit ruled in Taylor v. FAA that the regulations for drones operated by hobbyists are within the agency's statutory authority. The D.C. Circuit previously ruled that EPIC lacked standing to compel the FAA to establish privacy rules for commercial drones. The D.C. Circuit declined to reach the merits of EPIC's challenge. The FAA is expected to issue rules later this year that will require drones to identify themselves with radio beacons, as EPIC had previously urged.
  • DC Circuit Denies EPIC's Petition, Will Not Mandate Privacy Rules for Drones » (Jun. 19, 2018)
    The D.C. Circuit ruled today in EPIC v. FAA that EPIC lacked standing to compel the FAA to establish privacy rules for commercial drones. In 2012 EPIC, backed by more than one hundred organizations and privacy experts, petitioned the agency to establish privacy safeguards for drones. EPIC also cited a 2012 law requiring the FAA to develop a "comprehensive plan" for drone deployment. EPIC subsequently filed suit against the FAA, challenging the 2016 rule authorizing commercial drone operations without any privacy safeguards. Today the D.C. Circuit declined to reach the merits of EPIC's challenge, finding that neither EPIC nor its members had established an "injury" caused by the FAA rule. EPIC will continue to push for the establishment of drone privacy safeguards at the FAA. The drone privacy case is EPIC v. FAA, No. 16-1297 (D.C. Cir.).
  • EPIC to Senate Committee: Suspend Action on Drone Bill Until Agency Reports Complete » (Jun. 13, 2018)
    As the Senate Commitee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs considers S. 2836, the Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018: Countering Malicious Drones, EPIC has sent a statement to the Committee urging that action on the bill be suspended until DHS and other federal agencies establish and publish drone privacy procedures as required by a 2015 Presidential Memorandum. EPIC has brought a series of open government cases against the DHS and the Department of Defense to determine the use of drones by the federal government in the United States. EPIC's cases have determined that drones operated by the DHS intercept private communications, conduct human identification at a distance, and may include military payloads.
  • EPIC Advises Senate on Drone Privacy Issues » (May. 7, 2018)
    In advance of a Senate hearing "Keeping Pace with Innovation - Update on the Safe Integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems into the Airspace," EPIC submitted a statement to inform the committee of EPIC's ongoing work to establish transparency and oversight for the use of unmanned aircraft in the United States. EPIC believes that strong drone privacy rules are vital for the safe integration of commercial drones in the National Air Space. EPIC is now proceeding in the U.S. Court of Appeals of the D.C. Circuit against the FAA for the agency's failure to establish drone privacy safeguards. EPIC has also filed suit to enforce the transparency obligations of the Drone Advisory Committee, a body created by the FAA to study and make recommendations on U.S. drone policy. EPIC has also pursued several open government matters regarding the FAA's decision making process, which appears intended to purposefully avoid the development of meaningful privacy safeguards.
  • EPIC Sues to Enforce Transparency Obligations of FAA's Drone Advisory Committee » (Apr. 12, 2018)
    EPIC has filed suit to enforce the open government obligations of the Drone Advisory Committee, an industry-dominated committee that advises the Federal Aviation Administration on U.S. drone policy. For over a year, the Committee has conducted much of its work in secret and ignored the privacy risks posed by the deployment of drones, even after the Committee identified privacy as a top public concern. EPIC's lawsuit would force the Committee to disclose its work to the public. EPIC has a long history of promoting government transparency. EPIC's case to establish drone privacy regulations, EPIC v. FAA, No. 16-1297, is pending before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • EPIC FOIA: EPIC Sues DHS for Drone Reports » (Mar. 9, 2018)
    EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security to obtain the public release of information about the use of drones for domestic surveillance. EPIC cited a Presidential Memorandum that required all federal agencies to prepare public reports on drone deployment. EPIC's lawsuit charges that the DHS has failed to make these reports public. In a previous lawsuit against the DHS, EPIC obtained records which revealed that DHS drones had the capability to intercept electronic communications and identity humans at a distance. EPIC has also brought a lawsuit against the FAA to establish drone privacy regulations in the United States.
  • Republican DACA Bill Would Expand Use of Drones, Biometrics » (Feb. 21, 2018)
    The Secure and Succeed Act (S. Amdt. 1959 to H.R. 2579), sponsored by several Republican Senators, would link DACA with hi-tech border surveillance. Customs and Border Protection would use facial recognition and other biometric technologies to inspect travelers, both US citizens and non-citizens, at airports. The bill also establishes "Operation Phalanx" that instructs the Department of Defense—a military agency—to use drones for domestic surveillance. EPIC has pursued many FOIA cases on border surveillance involving biometrics, drones, and airport body scanners, In a statement to Congress, EPIC warned that "many of the techniques that are proposed to enhance border surveillance have direct implications for the privacy of American citizens."
  • D.C. Circuit to Hear Arguments in EPIC Drone Privacy Case » (Jan. 24, 2018)
    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hear arguments this week in EPIC v. FAA, a lawsuit concerning the FAA's failure to establish privacy rules for commercial drones. EPIC's case is based on an Act of Congress requiring a "comprehensive plan" for drone deployment in the United States and a petition, backed by more than one hundred organizations and privacy experts, calling for privacy safeguards. As EPIC argued in a brief to the Court, "It is not possible to address the hazards associated with drone operations without addressing privacy in the final rule for small commercial drones." Arguments will be held Thursday morning at the American University Washington College of Law. EPIC Senior Counsel Alan Butler will argue the case. EPIC's case is EPIC v. FAA, No. 16-1297 (D.C. Cir.).
  • EPIC FOIA- EPIC Obtains DHS Secretary Interview Notes on Border Security » (Jan. 8, 2018)
    Through a Freedom of Information Act request, EPIC has obtained former Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly's notes for an interview with NPR about border security. The notes include talking points about southwest border security and the construction of the southwest border wall. During the interview, Mr. Kelly also described DHS's plans to increase vetting of immigrants and coordination with the White House, despite the fact these issues were not included in the talking points. EPIC previously warned the House Oversight Committee that enhanced surveillance at the border will impact the rights of U.S. citizens. As a result of an earlier FOIA lawsuit, EPIC found that the Customs and Borders Protection is already deploying drones with facial recognition technology near the border.
  • FAA Advisory Panel Recommends Remote Tracking and Identification of Drones » (Dec. 20, 2017)
    A federal advisory panel has issued a report with recommendations for the remote tracking and identification of drones. The FAA advisory report also said the "FAA must review privacy considerations, in consultation with privacy experts and other Federal agencies, including developing a secure system that allows for segmented access to the ID and tracking information." EPIC backed remote identification and tracking of drones in comments on the agency's drone registration rule. EPIC also recommended privacy protections for the personal data collected for hobbyist drone users, though EPIC's recommendations go beyond the proposals contained in the advisory panel report. EPIC is currently challenging the FAA's failure to establish privacy safeguards. EPIC v. FAA is before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, with oral arguments scheduled for January 25, 2018.
  • FAA Drone Registration Requirement Flies Again » (Dec. 12, 2017)
    A defense authorization bill signed by the President today restores the FAA's drone registration requirement. The registration requirement was struck down by a federal appeals court earlier this year. EPIC supports registration for commercial drones because of the unique privacy risks they pose. In 2015, EPIC submitted extensive comments to the FAA, proposing that commercial drones also routinely broadcast location, course, speed over ground, as well as owner identifying information, similar to the Automated Identification System for commercial vessels. Earlier this year, EPIC also submitted statements to the House Transportation Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee emphasizing the privacy risks of commercial drones. EPIC is currently challenging the FAA's failure to establish privacy safeguards. EPIC v. FAA is before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, with oral arguments scheduled for January 25, 2018.
  • EPIC to Congress: FAA Must Establish Drone Privacy Safeguards and ID Requirements » (Nov. 28, 2017)
    EPIC sent a statement to a House Committee on Transportation ahead of a hearing on drone deployment in the United States. EPIC said that "privacy rules and identification requirements" are vital for the safe integration of commercial drones in the national air space. EPIC explained that the FAA has failed to establish necessary safeguards and has purposefully ignored privacy and public safety risks. In 2015, EPIC sued the FAA, arguing that the agency failed to comply with a Congressional mandate and a petition from leading experts. EPIC also told Congress that the FAA has excluded privacy experts from the agency task force on drone policy. In October 2017, CNN reported the first drone strike on a commercial aircraft.
  • House Bill Would Restore FAA's Drone Registration Rule » (Nov. 9, 2017)
    A defense authorization bill released today in the House would restore an FAA drone regulation that was struck down by a federal appeals court earlier this year. The D.C. Circuit had previously ruled that a regulation requiring hobbyists to register their drones violated the FAA Modernization Act, which forbids regulations for "model aircraft." EPIC strongly supports registration for commercial drones but recognizes an exception for hobbyists. EPIC submitted statements to the House Transportation Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee earlier this year emphasizing the unique privacy risks of commercial drones. EPIC is currently challenging the FAA's failure to protect the public from aerial surveillance by commercial drones in federal court. EPIC v. FAA is currently before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, with oral arguments scheduled for January 25, 2018.
  • Presidential Memo Promotes Local Drone Regulations » (Oct. 26, 2017)
    A Presidential Memorandum on "Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program" seeks to promote local state involvement in "development and enforcement" of Federal regulations as well as "inform the development of future Federal guidelines and regulatory decisions" on drone operations nationwide. As the FAA has failed to establish national standards for privacy, many local governments have passed laws to regulate the use of drones. According to the National Conference on Site Legislation, at least 38 states are considering legislation related to drones in the 2017 legislative session. In 2016, EPIC renewed its suit against the FAA, arguing the agency failed to protect the public from aerial surveillance. EPIC v. FAA is currently before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Argument will likely take place this fall.
  • Government Drone Advisory Group Holds Secret Meetings with Industry, Ignores Privacy » (Oct. 26, 2017)
    According to a Washington Post article, the FAA's Drone Advisory Committee hosted secret meetings and asked participants to sign confidentiality agreements. Documents obtained earlier by EPIC uncovered similar secret meetings leading to the FAA policy on drones that ignored privacy safeguards. The closed-door meetings appear to violate the Federal Advisory Committee Act. EPIC has also sued the FAA to obtain the meeting documents of the FAA's Drone Registration Task Force. EPIC's case to establish national privacy regulations, EPIC v. FAA is currently pending before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • EPIC Raises Questions About FBI Surveillance Programs » (Jul. 14, 2017)
    In a statement to Congress, EPIC told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to press the nominee for FBI Director, Christopher Wray, on his views of FBI databases and domestic surveillance programs. EPIC again expressed concern about the size and scope of the FBI's Next Generation Identification system which stores personal and biometric information on millions of individuals. EPIC also expressed concern over the FBI's failure to issue timely privacy impact assessments, lack of transparency on drone use, and plans to monitor social media. EPIC urged the Committee to obtain the nominee's views on these matters and to ensure his commitment to protect privacy and ensure transparency at the FBI.
  • Congress Defends Power of Local Authorities to Regulate Drone Privacy » (Jul. 12, 2017)
    Both the Senate and House are considering bi-partisan drone bills to protect the ability of states and local government to safeguard privacy. The House's Drone Innovation Act, sponsored by Rep. Jason Lewis (R-MN) and the Senate's Drone Federalism Act, sponsored by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), would ensure that FAA regulations do not preempt legitimate interests of local governments to protect personal privacy. Earlier this year, EPIC submitted a statement to the House Transportation Committee and a statement to the Senate Commerce Committee to emphasize the unique privacy risks of drones. EPIC explained that the FAA has failed to establish necessary privacy safeguards and that the states must be free to protect privacy interests. In 2015, EPIC sued the agency, arguing the FAA failed to protect the public from aerial surveillance. EPIC v. FAA is currently before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Argument will likely take place this fall.
  • EPIC Recommendations for Tech Week Meeting: Protect U.S. Consumers » (Jun. 20, 2017)
    In advance of a White House / OSTP meeting on "emerging technologies," EPIC has sent a statement to the Office of Science and Technology Policy. EPIC urged the Administration to focus on consumer protection and address the numerous privacy and security risks related to the "Internet of Broken Things." EPIC recommended recommended Privacy Enhancing Technologies, data minimization, and security measures for Internet-connected devices. EPIC also urged the Administration to issue regulations on drone privacy as mandated by Congress and to establish minimum safety standards for connected cars. EPIC warned that "The unregulated collection of personal data and the growth of the Internet of Things has led to staggering increases in identity theft, security breaches, and financial fraud in the United States."
  • EPIC to House: FAA Must Establish Drone Privacy Safeguards » (Jun. 9, 2017)
    EPIC sent a statement to the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure ahead of a hearing on FAA Reauthorization. Emphasizing the unique privacy risks of drones, EPIC explained that the FAA has failed to establish necessary safeguards. In 2015, EPIC sued the agency, arguing that it failed to comply with Congressional directives. Following a petition by EPIC, the agency received hundreds of comments in support of privacy rules. EPIC also told Congress that the FAA has excluded privacy experts from the agency task force on drone policy.
  • Court Strikes Down FAA Registration Requirement for Hobbyist Drones » (May. 19, 2017)
    A federal appeals court has struck down the FAA's rule requiring hobbyists to register their drones. The D.C. Circuit ruled that a registration requirement violated the FAA Modernization Act which forbade regulations for "model aircraft," including unmanned drones "flown for hobby or recreational purposes." EPIC is currently challenging the FAA's failure to establish privacy rules for "small, commercial" drones. Congress required a "comprehensive plan" for drone deployment in the United States, and more than 100 experts and organizations petitioned the agency for privacy safeguards. EPIC v. FAA is full briefed and arguments before the D.C. Circuit are anticipated this fall.
  • EPIC: 'Not Possible' for FAA to Regulate Drone Hazards Without Privacy Rules » (May. 12, 2017)
    EPIC has filed a reply brief in EPIC v. FAA, a lawsuit concerning the FAA's failure to establish privacy rules for small commercial drones. EPIC sued the FAA after the agency refused to issue drone privacy rules. Congress had required a "comprehensive plan" for drone deployment in the United States, and more than 100 experts and organizations petitioned the agency for privacy safeguards. In a brief filed last month, the FAA acknowledged "that cameras and other sensors attached to [drones] may pose a risk to privacy interests" but continued to deny the agency's responsibility to set privacy rules. EPIC wrote in reply, "It is not possible to address the hazards associated with drone operations without addressing privacy in the final rule for small commercial drone." EPIC also explained that the FAA "profoundly mischaracterizes the aviation technology at issue" by suggesting that cameras are simply add-ons. "Drone cameras are an integral component of drone operations," EPIC explained. "Without a camera, it would be almost impossible to operate a commercial drone."
  • In EPIC Lawsuit, FAA Concedes Drone Privacy Risks » (Apr. 28, 2017)
    The Federal Aviation Administration has filed a brief in response to EPIC's lawsuit, EPIC v. FAA, concerning the FAA's failure to establish privacy rules for commercial drones. EPIC sued the FAA after Congress required a "comprehensive plan" for drone deployment in the United States and the FAA denied EPIC's petition calling for privacy safeguards. In the opposition brief, the FAA acknowledged "that cameras and other sensors attached to [drones] may pose a risk to privacy interests." The FAA claims that the agency is not ignoring drone privacy risks, but documents from a previous Freedom of Information Act request by EPIC showed the agency also failed to complete a drone privacy report required by Congress.
  • EPIC: Enhanced Surveillance at Border Will Sweep Up U.S. Citizens » (Apr. 26, 2017)
    A statement from EPIC to the House Oversight Committee for a hearing on border security warns that enhanced surveillance will impact citizens' rights. "The use of drones in border security will place U.S. citizens living on the border under ceaseless surveillance by the government." said EPIC. EPIC noted that Customs and Border Protection is already deploying drones with facial recognition technology on U.S. communities. In 2013, EPIC obtained records under the Freedom of Information Act which revealed that CBP drones could also intercept electronic communications in the United States. State laws in some border states prohibit warrantless aerial surveillance but the United States has failed to enact laws to limit drone surveillance. EPIC has sued the FAA for the agency's failure to create drone privacy safegruards as required by Congress.
  • EPIC Obtains Documents About FBI Drone Program » (Apr. 6, 2017)
    As a result of a Freedom of Information Act request, EPIC has obtained the FBI's first annual summary report on drone operations. The annual reports are required by an Obama Presidential Memorandum regarding the domestic use of drones by federal agencies. EPIC also obtained related documents about FBI drone operations that were heavily redacted. Additionally, EPIC requested the FBI's drone policies and procedures related to privacy, civil liberties, and civil rights. The FBI has not yet released these documents to EPIC. EPIC will appeal the FBI's failure to release these documents and will also challenge the redactions in the documents that were released.
  • Sen. Markey and Rep. Welch Introduce Drone Privacy Legislation » (Mar. 15, 2017)
    Senator Markey and Representative Welch today introduced the Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act of 2017. The Act would establish privacy safeguards to protect individuals from drone surveillance. The Drone Privacy Act requires publicly available data collection statements from operators and warrants for drone surveillance by law enforcement. "Drones flying overhead could collect very sensitive and personally identifiable information about millions of Americans, but right now, we don't have sufficient safeguards in place to protect our privacy," said Senator Markey. The Act includes privacy protections EPIC has proposed in statements to Congress and comments to federal agencies. In EPIC v. FAA, EPIC is challenging the failure of the FAA to protect the public from aerial surveillance.
  • EPIC to Senate: FAA Must Establish Drone Privacy Safeguards » (Mar. 14, 2017)
    EPIC sent a detailed letter to the Senate Commerce Committee ahead of a hearing on drone deployment in the United States. Emphasizing the unique privacy risks of drones, EPIC explained that the FAA has failed to establish necessary safeguard. EPIC has sued the agency, arguing that is has failed to comply with Congressional directives, following a petition by EPIC hundreds of comments the agency receivedin support of privacy rules. EPIC also pointed out that the FAA has excluded privacy experts from the agency task force on drone policy.
  • In Court: EPIC Challenges FAA Failure to Establish Drone Privacy Rules » (Feb. 28, 2017)
    EPIC has filed the opening brief in a lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration concerning drone surveillance. EPIC charged that the FAA's failure to establish privacy rules for commercial drones is a violation of law. The EPIC lawsuit is based on an Act of Congress requiring a "comprehensive plan" for drone deployment in the United States and a petition, backed by more than one hundred organizations and privacy experts, calling for privacy safeguards. EPIC stated that “As the FAA has refused to issue any privacy-related rules and refused to conduct a comprehensive rulemaking, contrary to the FAA Modernization Act and to EPIC's Rulemaking Petition, the Court must now order the agency to do so.” The case is EPIC v. FAA, No. 16-1297.
  • Trump Order Threatens Consumer Protection, Public Safety » (Jan. 31, 2017)
    The President has issued an executive order requiring every new regulation to be offset by the repeal of at least two existing regulations. The Order could directly impact rules that safeguard consumers against data breach, financial fraud, and identity theft. EPIC has also recommended new public safety regulations concerning aerial drones, connected vehicles, and the Internet of Things. In EPIC v. FAA, EPIC is challenging the failure of the agency to protect the public from aerial surveillance.
  • EPIC Urges Senate Committee to Press Transportation Nominee on Drones, Connected Cars » (Jan. 12, 2017)
    EPIC has sent a statement to the Senate Commerce Committee, highlighting two significant privacy issues: drones and autonomous vehicles. The Senate Committee met this week to consider the nomination of Elaine Chao for Secretary of Transportation. EPIC sued the FAA, an agency subject to the Committee's oversight, for its failure to establish drone privacy rules, as required by Congress. EPIC also testified last year before the Committee on the risks of connected cars, EPIC has recently submitted comments on federal automated vehicles policy and filed an amicus brief in federal appeals court on the risks to consumers of connected vehicles.
  • EPIC FOIA: Drone Industry Cozied Up to Public Officials » (Dec. 21, 2016)
    Documents obtained by EPIC reveal a steady line of communication between government officials and the drone industry leading up to the government’s policy on drones. According to the documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, public officials regularly communicated with privacy sector members of the Small UAV Coalition, an industry trade group that includes Google, Amazon, and DJI, a Chinese drone company. The government’s “multistakeholder process” has been criticized for undermining democratic institutions and giving industry lobbyists preferential access to government agencies. EPIC advocated for enforceable privacy rules prior to deployment of commercial drones in the United States. After the a multistakeholder process produced voluntary guidelines, EPIC  sued the FAA. The case is currently pending before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Open Government Lawsuits at Near-Record Highs in 2016 » (Dec. 9, 2016)
    Advocates, journalists, and businesses have brought a near-record 512 lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act in 2016. The findings, complied by for FOIAproject.org by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, show a 35 percent increase in FOIA litigation over the past five years. According to the new report, the lawsuits have covered diverse issues including "private email accounts, national security, immigration, the environment and even Donald Trump." In 2016, EPIC brought FOIA suits for the DOJ's secret inspector general reports, the DOT's drone task force records, and the FBI's biometric data transfer memos.
  • Congress to Examine Artificial Intelligence » (Nov. 30, 2016)
    Today the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on "The Dawn of Artificial Intelligence." Experts from industry and academia will provide "a broad overview of the state of artificial intelligence, including policy implications and effects on commerce." In a prepared statement, EPIC urged the Committee to support "Algorithmic Transparency," an essential public policy strategy to make AI accountable. The hearing follows two White House reports -Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence and the National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan. EPIC is currently litigating several "AI" cases including EPIC v. FAA (drone surveillance), Cahen v. Toyota (autonomous vehicles), EPIC v. CPB (U.S. traveler "risk assessments"), and Secret DNA Forensic Source Code.
  • European Parliament Explores Algorithmic Transparency » (Nov. 7, 2016)
    A hearing today in the European Parliament brought together technologists, ethicists, and policymakers to examine "Algorithmic Accountability and Transparency in the Digital Economy." Recently German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke against secret algorithms, warning that that there must be more transparency and accountability. EPIC has promoted Algorithmic Transparency for many years and is currently litigating several cases on the front lines of AI, including EPIC v. FAA (drones), Cahen v. Toyota (autonomous vehicles), and algorithms in criminal justice. EPIC has also proposed two amendments to Asimov's Rules of Robotics, requiring autonomous devices to reveal the basis of their decisions and to reveal their actual identity.
  • EPIC FOIA - FAA Defies Congress, Fails to Complete Drone Privacy Report » (Oct. 24, 2016)
    Through an EPIC Freedom of Information Act request, EPIC obtained documents revealing that the FAA never finished a drone privacy report required by Congress. The Appropriations Act of 2014, which provided funding for the agency, required the FAA to inform Congress on "how the FAA can address the impact of widespread use of [drones] on individual privacy." The FAA drone privacy report was to be completed before the end of 2015 and prior to any drone regulations were issued. Now, as the end of 2016 approaches, the FAA has moved forward with regulations lacking privacy safeguards, and the drone privacy report still unfinished. EPIC is currently suing the FAA for the agency's failure to establish drone privacy rules.
  • FTC Hosts Event on Drones and Privacy » (Oct. 13, 2016)
    Today the Federal Trade Commission will host a panel discussion on drones and privacy as part of the agency's Fall Technology Series. The Director of EPIC's Domestic Surveillance Project, Jeramie Scott, will participate in the panel. Mr. Scott previously testified before the Pennsylvania Senate on domestic drone surveillance and submitted a statement for record regarding a Maryland bill to limit drone surveillance. EPIC and leading experts previously urged the FAA to adopt privacy rules for drones, and when the agency refused, EPIC sued. EPIC v. FAA is currently pending before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • White House Releases Reports on Future of Artificial Intelligence » (Oct. 13, 2016)
    The White House has released two new reports on the impact of Artificial Intelligence on the US economy and related policy concerns. Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence surveys the current state of AI, applications, and emerging challenges for society and public policy. The report concludes "practitioners must ensure that AI-enabled systems are governable; that they are open, transparent, and understandable; that they can work effectively with people; and that their operation will remain consistent with human values and aspirations." A companion report National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan proposes a strategic plan for Federally-funded research and development in AI. President Obama will discuss these issues on October 13 at the White House Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh. #FutureofAI EPIC has promoted Algorithmic Transparency for many years and is currently litigating several cases on the front lines of AI, including EPIC v. FAA (drones), and Cahen v. Toyota (autonomous vehicles).
  • FAA Drone Advisory Committee to Address Privacy » (Sep. 19, 2016)
    In its inaugural meeting, the FAA's newly assembled Drone Advisory Committee decided to address privacy concerns posed by the increasing deployment of drones in the United States. The FAA Committee, lacking consumer and privacy representatives, was assembled to make recommendations to the FAA on drone policy. According to the National Conference on State Legislatures, at least 38 states have considered drone legislation so far this year. EPIC and leading experts previously urged the FAA to adopt privacy rules for drones, and when the agency refused, EPIC sued. EPIC v. FAA is currently pending before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • EPIC Sues FAA, Challenges Failure to Establish Drone Privacy Safeguards » (Aug. 23, 2016)
    EPIC has filed suit against the Federal Aviation Administration, arguing the agency failed to establish privacy rules for drones as required by Congress. Congress in 2012 ordered the FAA to issue "comprehensive" rules for drone use. EPIC and more than 100 organizations and experts subsequently urged the FAA to establish privacy protections prior to permitting widespread drone deployment. The FAA denied EPIC's petition. EPIC then sued the agency, but a federal appeals court ruled that EPIC's suit was premature because the agency had not yet issued a final rule and might still consider the privacy concerns raised by EPIC and others. The FAA then proceeded to issue final rules for small drones without privacy safeguards. EPIC is now challenging the agency final rule.
  • White House Hosts Drone Workshop, FAA OKs Commercial Use, Ignores Privacy » (Aug. 4, 2016)
    The White House hosted “Drones and the Future of Aviation.” The FAA Administrator announced that the FAA will approve drone operations over people before the end of the year. The FAA also announced an industry-led task force that will promote voluntary privacy best practices.  In EPIC v. FAA, EPIC challenged the FAA's failure to establish drone privacy regulations following a petition endorsed by more than 100 experts and organizations. The FAA has repeatedly acknowledged the privacy risks of drones, but has refused to establish privacy safeguards.
  • EPIC FOIA: Transportation Department Releases New Drone Meeting Documents » (Jul. 14, 2016)
    In response to an EPIC Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the Department of Transportation has released to EPIC another set of documents from the agency's secret meetings with industry groups about drone policy. The newly released documents, which summarize an extensive three-day meeting between the FAA and industry groups, is conspicuously silent on privacy, despite public comments urging the agency to address privacy concerns.  In a related development, the FAA final rule on commercial drones failed to address the privacy risks of deploying drones in the United States. 
  • FAA Approves Commercial Drones Without Privacy Safeguards » (Jun. 21, 2016)
    The FAA released the final rule on commercial drones today. Despite nearly 180 comments regarding the privacy risks of drones, the FAA failed to address the privacy risks of deploying commercial drones into the national airspace. EPIC previously filed suit against the FAA after more than 100 groups and experts petitioned the agency to conduct a rulemaking on drone privacy. EPIC also recommended the FAA implement a national database detailing the surveillance capabilities of commercial drones. The FAA has repeatedly acknowledged the privacy risks of drone deployment, but has so far refused to adopt any privacy safeguards.
  • EPIC FOIA: Secret Drone Task Force Ignored Privacy Concerns » (Jun. 9, 2016)
    second batch of previously secret documents show that the government’s secret drone task force ignored public concerns about drone surveillance. Included in the documents are opening remarks by FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, who urged the task force to take into consideration “the interests of all stakeholders,” but who declined to invite any privacy or consumer advocates to the closed door meetings. The newly released records stem from EPIC v. DOT, a lawsuit filed to uncover records relating to the private meetings held last November in Washington, DC between agency officials and industry representatives. EPIC expects to obtain more documents from the agency.
  • Court Rules EPIC Must Wait to Challenge Missing Drone Privacy Rules » (May. 10, 2016)
    The federal appeals court in Washington, DC ruled today that EPIC’s suit against the Federal Aviation Administration must be set aside because the agency has not yet finalized the rules for drone operations in the United States. EPIC previously filed suit against the FAA after more than 100 groups and experts petitioned the agency to conduct a rulemaking on drone privacy. The FAA has repeatedly acknowledged the need to address privacy in drone operations, but has so far refused to adopt any privacy rules. In a related case, EPIC recently uncovered the minutes of a secret FAA drone task force. According to one of the participants, the “Current state of non-regulation negatively affects the public perception of drones. There is no regulatory recourse for anyone who is negatively affected by a small UAV [drones]."
  • EPIC FOIA - Secret Drone Task Force Records Disclosed » (May. 9, 2016)
    In response to EPIC's FOIA lawsuit, the Department of Transportation has released the minutes of a secret meeting  of the FAA drone task force. The task force included industry groups such as GoogleX, Amazon, and DJI, but consumer groups and privacy advocates were excluded from the hastily created advisory committee. The documents shed light on the secret meetings held last November. Several participants warned about privacy risks in drone deployment. The minutes also stated, "Current state of non-regulation negatively affects the public perception of drones. There is no regulatory recourse for anyone who is negatively affected by a small UAV [drones]." EPIC has urged the agency to do more to safeguard the public, and in EPIC v. FAA, challenged the FAA's failure to establish privacy regulations for drones.
  • FAA Announces Drone "Advisory Committee" » (May. 5, 2016)
    Yesterday FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced that the FAA will establish a Drone Advisory Committee. According to Administrator Huerta, the committee "will help identify and prioritize integration challenges and improvements." Intel CEO Brian Krzanich will chair the committee. The Federal Advisory Committee Act requires federal agencies to ensure that advisory committees are “objective and accessible to the public.” EPIC previously criticized the FAA Drone Registration Task Force, which met in secret and includes no consumer groups. EPIC is currently suing the FAA for the secret meeting records of the Registration Task Force. EPIC previously sued the FAA for failing to establish privacy rules for commercial dronesEPIC v. FAA is pending before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • FAA Considers Removing Safety Rules for Small Drones, Also Ignores Privacy Concerns » (Apr. 8, 2016)
    The report of a secret FAA committee would relax safety rules for drones operating over populated areas. The report also makes no mention of  the privacy risks of aerial surveillance by small drones.  Like the FAA registration task force, the FAA small drones committee was composed of mostly industry members and did not include any privacy or consumer protection groups. The report recommends allowing drones to fly within 20' above a person or within 10' next to a person. EPIC previously sued the FAA for failing to establish privacy rules for commercial dronesEPIC v. FAA is pending before the D.C. Circuit. EPIC also filed a FOIA lawsuit against the FAA for the records of the secret drone task force meetings.
  • EPIC Sues Agency for Drone Task Force Meeting Records » (Apr. 4, 2016)
    EPIC has filed a FOIA lawsuit against the Department of Transportation for records of the closed-door meetings of the "Drone Registration Task Force". The agency created the Task Force late last year to develop recommendations for registering commercial drones. The Task Force--whose membership included no civil liberties organizations or privacy advocates--met in secret last November before releasing a report. EPIC submitted extensive comments to the Task Force. EPIC's lawsuit was filed just after the FAA's Aviation Rulemaking Committee of industry groups and agency officials recommended easing restrictions that prohibit businesses from flying unmanned aerial vehicles. In EPIC v. FAA, EPIC has also challenged the FAA's failure to establish privacy rules for drones.
  • Drone Privacy Safeguards Move Forward in Senate » (Mar. 16, 2016)
    A Senate committee has adopted several key privacy amendments concerning drone operations in the US. The amendments, sponsored by Senator Markey (D-Mass), limit the scope of drone surveillance and require more accountability for drone operators. Markey stated, "As more and more drones take flight in our skies, the need to protect Americans' privacy is paramount." EPIC urged Congress and the FAA to establish limits on drone surveillance and recommended the FAA establish a database detailing drone surveillance capabilities. EPIC has sued the FAA for its failure to establish commercial drone privacy rules.
  • Senate to Consider FAA Funding but Drone Privacy Safeguards Missing » (Mar. 14, 2016)
    On March 16, 2016 the Senate will consider the FAA Reauthorization bill. Senator John Thune introduced the legislation to fund the operations of the the federal agency responsible for aviation safety. The bill requires drone operators to post privacy policies, but provides no meaningful privacy safeguards that would limit surveillance by drone operators. EPIC has urged Congress and the FAA to establish real limits on surveillance by drones. EPIC also recommended that the FAA to establish a national database detailing the surveillance capabilities of commercial drones. And after the agency failed to establish privacy rules mandated by Congress, EPIC filed a lawsuit, EPIC v. FAA that is now pending before the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • EPIC to Testify before Pennsylvania Senate on Domestic Drone Surveillance » (Mar. 14, 2016)
    EPIC Domestic Surveillance Project Director Jeramie Scot will testify at a hearing on before the Pennsylvania Senate Majority on "Unmanned Aerial Vehicles." The hearing will address the private and public sector use of drones. In a prepared statement, EPIC’s Scott urges the Pennsylvania Senate to enact legislation to limit both law enforcement and commercial drone surveillance. EPIC states, “The increased use of drones to conduct various forms of surveillance must be accompanied by increased privacy protections.” EPIC previously sued the FAA for failing to establish federal privacy rules for commercial drones. EPIC v. FAA is pending before the D.C. Circuit.
  • EPIC to Argue before Federal Appeals Court for Drone Privacy Rules » (Feb. 9, 2016)
    EPIC President Marc Rotenberg will argue EPIC v. FAA before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on February 10, 2016. EPIC, joined by more than 100 groups and experts, petitioned the agency to conduct a public rule-making on the privacy impact of increased drone deployment in the United States. The FAA acknowledged the importance of privacy and responded in November 2014 that it would undertake the rulemaking. But in early 2015, the agency reversed course and announced it would not establish privacy safeguards for commercial drones. As of February 5, 2016, the agency has granted more than 3,300 waivers to drone operators who lack certification to demonstrate airworthiness.
  • EPIC Urges FAA to Make Drone Surveillance Capabilities Public » (Jan. 15, 2016)
    In comments to the FAA, EPIC urged the agency to make public the surveillance capabilities of drones operated in the United Staes. EPIC also proposed privacy safeguards for personal information. EPIC stated, "It is not the personal information of the drone registrant that should be readily available to the public, but the technical capabilities of the registered drone." The FAA recently published a rule requiring drone registration, which EPIC supported. EPIC previously sued the FAA for failing to establish privacy rules for commercial drones. EPIC v. FAA is pending before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • DHS Releases Drone Privacy Best Practices » (Jan. 6, 2016)
    The Department of Homeland Security has released a set of drone privacy best practices. The best practices reflect many of the recommendations made by EPIC in testimony to Congress, including limiting data collection, use, dissemination, and retention. The recommendations also propose a redress program so individuals can challenge inappropriate collection. The best practices are only guidelines, but a Presidential Memorandum on drones and privacy requires that all federal agencies to establish and publish drone privacy procedures by February 2016. EPIC has sued the Federal Aviation Administration, EPIC v. FAA to establish privacy rules for commercial drones. Oral arguments are scheduled before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on February 10.
  • FAA Requires Drone Registration but Again Fails to Limit Drone Surveillance » (Dec. 14, 2015)
    The FAA has published an rule requiring drone registration by December 21st. Owners of small drones will be required to pay a small fee and provide their name, physical address, and e-mail address. The agency announced that the registration database will be searchable, but owner e-mail addresses will not be made public. EPIC filed extensive comments on the proposed registration scheme, recommending that drones broadcast registration IDs and include information about surveillance capabilities. The FAA acknowledged EPIC's comments, but failed to adopt the recommendations. EPIC previously sued the FAA for failing to establish privacy rules for commercial drones. EPIC v. FAA is pending before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • EPIC to FAA: Proposed Registration Requirements Fall Short » (Nov. 23, 2015)
    The FAA Drone Task Force Final Report fails to ensure the safe operation of drones in the United States. The committee proposed only that drone operators (1) register online, (2) receive a universal registration number, and (3) mark the number on drones prior to operation. In comments to the agency, EPIC recommended that drones broadcast registration numbers, and that registration include drone surveillance capabilities and contact information for operators, such as phone numbers. The FAA's former top drone official told the Associated Press that drone surveillance capabilities will contribute to safety risks. EPIC previously sued the FAA for failing to establish privacy rules for commercial drones. That case is pending before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Congress Examines (Lack of) Drone Privacy and Safety » (Nov. 20, 2015)
    This week a House Committee examined "The Fast-Evolving Uses and Economic Impacts of Drones." Chairman Burgess, echoing comments from other committee members, stated, "there are important questions around privacy laws and safety." The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 required the FAA to develop a "comprehensive plan" to integrate drones into national airspace by September 30, 2015. Despite missing the deadline, the FAA has granted over 2,220 exemptions for commercial drones even as safety and privacy concerns increase. More than 100 privacy experts and organizations petitioned the FAA to establish privacy safeguards prior to the deployment of drones. EPIC has sued the agency, EPIC v. FAA, to establish privacy rules for commercial drones.
  • In Court: EPIC Pursues Drone Privacy Safeguards » (Nov. 19, 2015)
    EPIC has filed an additional brief in EPIC v. FAA. The case follows from an act of Congress requiring a "comprehensive plan" for drone deployment and EPIC's petition, joined by more than 100 hundred experts, that urged the agency to establish drone privacy rules. In the most recent court filing, EPIC challenged the agency's rationale for dismissing the petition. EPIC also argued the FAA improperly ignored privacy concerns in a recent rulemaking on small drones. The FAA conceded that drones, "because of their size and capabilities, may enhance privacy concerns," but still did not propose privacy safeguards. The United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit is expected to hear argument in the case early next year.
  • EPIC Supports Drone Registration Proposal » (Nov. 11, 2015)
    In comments to the FAA, EPIC urged the agency to require all drone operators to register in a federal drone registry. An FAA task force, lacking any privacy experts, is developing a plan for a national registry. EPIC said registration is critical for public safety and privacy protection. EPIC recommended that the FAA require drones to broadcast identification information and that the registration database detail a drone's surveillance capabilities. EPIC also urged the agency to provide privacy protections for the personal information of hobbyists. Earlier this year, EPIC sued the FAA for failing to establish privacy rules for commercial drones as mandated by Congress.
  • In EPIC Lawsuit, FAA Concedes Drone Privacy Risks » (Nov. 5, 2015)
    The Federal Aviation Administration has filed a brief in response to EPIC's lawsuit, EPIC v. FAA, charging that the agency failed to establish privacy rules for commercial drones as required by law. EPIC sued the agency after Congress required a "comprehensive plan" for drone deployment and a petition, backed by more than one hundred organizations and privacy experts, called for privacy safeguards. In its response to EPIC, the FAA acknowledged that the comprehensive plan "recognizes the privacy issues that may be heightened" by drone surveillance. The FAA also conceded that drones, "because of their size and capabilities, may enhance privacy concerns," but the agency has still not begun the process of developing regulations to safeguard privacy.
  • As Meetings Begin, Drone Registration Task Force Fails to Include Privacy Groups » (Nov. 2, 2015)
    The FAA has released the membership list of the Drone Registration Task Force, which is charged with drafting recommendations for a federal drone registry. Notably, the Task Force does not include any privacy organization or privacy experts. EPIC filed an expedited FOIA request for the Task Force membership list and called on the FAA to publicly release the information. Earlier this year, EPIC sued the FAA for failing to establish privacy rules for commercial drones as mandated by Congress. The public may submit comments on the Drone Registration plan however the Task Force meeting location and agenda remains secret.
  • Civil Society Leaders in Amsterdam Issue Declaration on Fundamental Rights » (Oct. 28, 2015)
    Leading digital rights and consumer privacy organizations meeting in Amsterdam have issued a declaration "Fundamental Rights are Fundamental." Calling attention to the recent success of Max Schrems and the failure of self-regulation, the organizations said the "Bridges" report is "remarkably out of touch with the current legal reality and what we need to do to address it." The NGO leaders also criticized the organizers of the Amsterdam conference for "the failure to engage" many new challenges to data protection, including "Big Data" and drone surveillance. Privacy campaigner Simon Davies wrote, "There has never been a moment in history when the privacy regulator community needs to do more to restore trust and relevance. Instead, this week signals a new low in that trust."
  • EPIC Seeks Disclosure of Drone Task Force Participants » (Oct. 27, 2015)
    In a letter today, EPIC called on the FAA and Department of Transportation to make public the members of a new drone task force. The task force, announced last week, will make recommendations for a federal drone registry. The Transportation Secretary said that the task force will be composed of 25 to 30 individuals, but it is unknown whether privacy and safety advocates will be included. EPIC also filed an expedited FOIA request for the information, citing the fast-approaching November 20th deadline for the task force's recommendations.
  • FAA To Establish Drone Registration Database, Privacy Safeguards Still Needed » (Oct. 20, 2015)
    The Department of Transportation and FAA announced that drone operators will be required to register with a national drone registration database. A task force will develop recommendations for the registration process by November 20. The registration requirement is aimed at protecting public safety and promoting accountability, but creates new privacy risks. EPIC sued the FAA to develop privacy regulations for commercial drones. In EPIC v. FAA, EPIC recently argued that the agency's failure to establish privacy rules for commercial drones is a violation of law and should be overturned.
  • New Mexico Supreme Court Finds Warrantless Aerial Surveillance Violates Fourth Amendment » (Oct. 19, 2015)
    The Supreme Court of New Mexico ruled in State v. Davis that the Fourth Amendment prohibits the warrantless aerial surveillance of, and interference with, a person's private property. Specifically, the court found that "prolonged hovering close enough to the ground to cause interference with Davis' property transformed this surveillance from a lawful observation of an area left open to public view to an unconstitutional intrusion into Davis' expectation of privacy." EPIC filed a friend of the court brief and presented oral argument before the Court. EPIC said that aerial surveillance threatens privacy and property interests and that surveillance in the airspace close to a home violates the Fourth Amendment. The New Mexico Supreme Court agreed. EPIC frequently amicus briefs on emerging privacy and civil liberties issues.
  • California Enacts Innovative Privacy Protections for Drones and SmartTVs » (Oct. 9, 2015)
    California Governor Jerry Brown has signed laws that provide California residents with privacy protections against drones and SmartTVs. AB856 prohibits drone flight in the airspace above private property with the intent of taking photos, video, or a sound recording of a person. AB1116 prohibits the use of voice recognition on SmartTVs unless consumers are "prominently inform[ed]" during the initial setup of the TV. The new California law also prohibits the use of voice recording for advertising purposes. Earlier this year, EPIC filed a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission about Samsung's SmartTVs and recommended new consumer safeguards. EPIC has also recommended drone privacy safeguards to the US Congress, the FAA, and State courts.
  • Congress Holds Hearing on Drone Safety After FAA Misses Deadline on Drone Regs » (Oct. 9, 2015)
    The House Subcommittee on Aviation held a hearing on drone safety after the FAA's failure to meet a Congressional deadline to implement comprehensive drone regulations. The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 required the agency to develop a "Comprehensive Plan" to integrate drones into the national airspace by September 30, 2015. The agency missed the deadline. However, the FAA has granted over a 1,700 exemptions for drones to operate in the US even as safety and privacy concerns increase. Chairman LaBiondo (R-NJ) said at the hearing, "The real possibility of a mid-air collision must be taken seriously in order to prevent tragic consequences." EPIC recently sued the agency, EPIC v. FAA, to establish privacy rules for commercial drones.
  • FAA Misses Deadline on Drones Regs, Also Ignores Privacy » (Oct. 2, 2015)
    FAA has failed to meet a Congressional deadline to implement comprehensive drone regulations. The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 required the agency to develop a "Comprehensive Plan" to integrate drones into the national airspace by September 30, 2015. The agency missed the deadline. However, the FAA has granted over a 1,700 exemptions for drones to operate in the US even as safety and privacy concerns increase. EPIC recently sued the agency, EPIC v. FAA, to establish privacy rules for commercial drones.
  • In Court: EPIC Challenges FAA Failure to Establish Drone Privacy Rules » (Sep. 29, 2015)
    EPIC has filed the opening brief in a lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration. EPIC charged that the agency’s failure to establish privacy rules for commercial drones is a violation of law and should be overturned. The EPIC lawsuit followed an Act of Congress requiring a “comprehensive plan” for the integration of drones and petition, backed by more than one hundred organizations and privacy experts, calling for privacy safeguards. EPIC stated that “As the agency has determined not to issue rules, contrary to the FAA Modernization Act and EPIC’s Rulemaking Petition, the Court must now order the agency to do so.” The case is EPIC v. FAA, No. 15-1075. The United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit is expected to hear oral argument in the case early next year. Press Release - EPIC v. FAA
  • In the States: California Governor Vetoes Drone Privacy Bill » (Sep. 14, 2015)
    Following lobbying by several tech companies, California Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed a bill that would have prohibited drone trespass over private property. Neighboring Oregon provides a civil action against drone operators who fly lower than 400 feet over private property. EPIC has testified in Congress in support of comprehensive drone privacy legislation, argued before the New Mexico Supreme Court in support of a warrant requirement for low altitude aerial surveillance, and sued the FAA for failing to establish drone privacy safeguards.
  • Congress to Examine Commercial Drones, Privacy and Safety Issues Loom Large » (Sep. 9, 2015)
    The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Commercial Applications and Public Policy Implications. The FAA has granted nearly 1,500 exemptions to commercial drone operators even as public safety risks and privacy concerns increase. EPIC has sued the agency for its failure to establish privacy safeguards prior to the deployment of commercial drones in the United States. The lawsuit, EPIC v. FAA, follows an act of Congress requiring the agency to develop a "comprehensive plan" for the safe integration of drones in domestic airspace, and a petition, organized by EPIC and joined by over 100 experts organizations, calling on the FAA to establish privacy rules. EPIC previously testified in Congress in support of strong privacy legislation.
  • EPIC Challenge to FAA Failure to Establish Privacy Safeguards Moves Forward » (Aug. 13, 2015)
    The federal appeals court in Washington, DC has ordered briefing in EPIC's lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration. EPIC filed suit in March after the FAA failed to establish privacy rules for commercial drones as mandated by Congress. The EPIC lawsuit followed an earlier petition to the agency backed by more than a hundred organizations and privacy experts. The FAA had asked the D.C. Circuit to dismiss EPIC's lawsuit. But in today's order, the appellate court directed the parties to prepare merits briefing for a three-judge panel which will consider the case.
  • States Adopt Privacy Laws for Student Data, Breach Notification, License Plate Readers, and Drones » (Jul. 2, 2015)
    Several states have recently enacted new privacy laws. New Hampshire and Oregon passed student privacy legislation modeled after California's Student Online Personal Information Protection Act. Rhode Island and Connecticut enacted new consumer privacy and data breach notification laws. A new Minnesota law limits the data police may capture using automated license plate readers and requires the deletion of all data not relevant to an investigation. And the Freedom from Unwanted Surveillance Act, a law in Florida regulating the commercial use of drones, went into force this week. EPIC's State Policy Project is monitoring privacy bills nationwide.
  • Justice Department Releases Drone Privacy Guidance » (May. 25, 2015)
    The Justice Department has released extensive "Policy Guidance" for the use of drones by federal agencies. The Guidance bans the use of drones to monitor activities protected by the First Amendment, requires routine logs of drone use, and requires the protection of civil liberties and privacy in all cases. However, the Guidance "does not create any right, benefit, trust, or responsibility" enforceable against the United States. EPIC supports the recommendations. EPIC has also testified before Congress in support of a comprehensive drone privacy law, petitioned the FAA for drone privacy regulations, and sued the FAA when the agency failed to create privacy safeguards.
  • New Drone Privacy Law Signed by Florida Governor » (May. 17, 2015)
    Florida has a new law prohibiting the use of drones to intentionally record images of people on private property if a reasonable expectation of privacy exists. The law applies to law enforcement and private individuals, and provides for civil damages and injunctive relief. The law follows Florida's 2013 law requiring that police obtain a warrant to use drones to collect evidence. Many states are considering similar legislation and EPIC's State Policy Project is monitoring bills nationwide. EPIC has also testified in Congress in support of comprehensive drone privacy legislation, argued before the New Mexico Supreme Court in support of the warrant requirement, and sued the FAA for failing to establish drone privacy safeguards.
  • EPIC Launches State Policy Project » (May. 5, 2015)
    EPIC has launched the EPIC State Policy Project to track legislation across the county concerning privacy and civil liberties. The EPIC State Project will identify new developments and model legislation. The Project builds on EPIC's extensive work on emerging privacy and civil liberties issues in the states. The new State Project will focus on student privacy, drones, consumer data security, data breach notification, location privacy, genetic privacy, the right to be forgotten, and auto black boxes.
  • EPIC Demands the FAA to Establish Drone Privacy Rules » (Apr. 25, 2015)
    EPIC has filed extensive comments, urging the Federal Aviation Administration to propose drone privacy safeguards. In 2012, EPIC led a coalition of over 100 experts and organizations in petitioning the FAA to establish privacy protections prior to the deployment of commercial drones in the United States. EPIC stated that, "As a consequence of the FAA’s failure to establish drone privacy rules, millions of Americans now face the possibility of unchecked monitoring and harassment." EPIC has sued the agency for its failure to protect the privacy of Americans.
  • "Eyes Over Washington:" EPIC Obtains Documents about Army Blimps in DC » (Apr. 15, 2015)
    As the result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, EPIC has obtained several thousand pages about the blimps deployed by the Army, just north of the nation's capital. The records document the use of "JLENS," as well as the Army's relationship with the contractor Raytheon, which has proposed a video surveillance capability. The Army has disputed the claim that JLENS has surveillance capability. EPIC has recently filed suit against the FAA for failure to establish privacy rules for commercial drones in the US.
  • EPIC Sues FAA, Challenges Failure to Create Drone Privacy Safeguards » (Mar. 31, 2015)
    Today EPIC filed suit in the federal appeals court in Washington, DC arguing that the Federal Aviation Administration failed to establish privacy rules for commercial drones as mandated by Congress. Congress had required the FAA to develop a "comprehensive plan" for drone deployment. In 2012 EPIC and more than 100 organizations and experts also urged the federal agency to establish privacy protections prior to the deployment of commercial drones in the United States. The FAA denied the EPIC petition, claiming it "did not raise an immediate safety concern." Then last month the FAA announced a rulemaking on commercial drones and purposefully ignored privacy concerns, stating that privacy "issues are beyond the scope of this rule making."
  • EPIC Comments on Maryland Drone Bill » (Mar. 17, 2015)
    In a prepared statement for a hearing on a bill to limit drone surveillance, EPIC urged Maryland state legislatures to add additional privacy protections. The bill prohibits drone surveillance of "specifically targeted individuals or private property," except where a valid search warrant is obtained or explicit consent is given. EPIC recommended that the bill specifically limit police drone surveillance of First Amendment protected activities, require use and data limitations, and include additional transparency and accountability measures. EPIC previously petitioned the FAA to establish clear privacy guidelines for commercial drones and urged Congress to establish privacy safeguards to limit drone surveillance.
  • Sen. Markey and Rep. Welch Propose Drone Privacy Legislation » (Mar. 3, 2015)
    Senator Markey and Representative Welch introduced the Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act of 2015. The Act would regulate the use of drones in the United States. The Drone Privacy Act requires publicly available data collection statements from operators and warrants for drone surveillance by law enforcement. Recently announced rules by the FAA and White House "fail to adequately protect the privacy of Americans," according to the Congressmen. The Drone Privacy Act incorporates recommendations by EPIC in testimony to Congress and comments to federal agencies. EPIC petitioned the FAA to establish clear privacy rules for commercial drone operators.
  • FAA Ignores Privacy Concerns in Public Rulemaking on Commercial Drones » (Feb. 19, 2015)
    The Federal Aviation Administration announced a public rulemaking for the integration of small commercial drones into the National airspace. The rules will establish safety procedures but will not address privacy concerns. The agency stated that privacy "issues are beyond the scope of this rule making." EPIC and 100+ organizations, experts, and members of the public petitioned the FAA to conduct a public rulemaking on the privacy impact of domestic drone use. Several members of Congress, including Senator Markey and Senator Paul have urged the establishment of privacy laws before surveillance drones are deployed in the United States.
  • President Orders Federal Agencies to Adopt Privacy Rules for Drone Use, FAA Proposes Weak Rules for Commercial Users » (Feb. 15, 2015)
    The President has issued a new Executive Order requiring all federal agencies to adopt privacy rules for drone use. The Order is intended to limit the collection and use of personally identifiable information. The rules will also require agencies to adopt transparency and accountability procedures for drone use. The Order incorporates recommendations made by EPIC in testimony to Congress and comments to several federal agencies. The Federal Aviation Administration has also proposed new regulations for commercial drone use in the United States. These rules will establish safety procedures for drone use, including maximum height, weight and line-of-sight operation, but the rules do not address the privacy impact of commercial drone use. EPIC petitioned the FAA to establish clear privacy rules for commercial drone operators.
  • FAA Settles Case Testing Legality of Commercial Drone Ban » (Jan. 27, 2015)
    The FAA has settled a case, Huerta v. Pirker, that challenged the agency's ability to regulate the commercial use of drones. The settlement requires the drone operator to pay a $1,100 fine for violating the FAA regulation. Despite the ban, the agency continues to grant exceptions for commercial drone use. A small drone recently crashed on the White House grounds, raising additional concerns the anticipated deployment of drones in the United States. EPIC has petitioned the FAA to establish clear privacy rules for the operation of commercial drones.
  • Inspector General: Border Drone Program Expensive, Ineffective » (Jan. 6, 2015)
    The DHS Office of Inspector General has released a new report on the drone surveillance program operated on the US border. The Inspector General found that the government "has invested significant funds in a program that has not achieved the expected results, and it cannot demonstrate how much the program has improved border security." The report also found that Customs and Border Protection underestimated the cost of operations. The Inspector General recommends tabling any expansion of the drone surveillance program. In February 2013, EPIC petitioned the agency to suspend the border surveillance program pending the establishment of concrete privacy regulations. The petition followed an EPIC Freedom of Information Act request, which found that border drones carry advanced surveillance equipment that could intercept electronic communications and identify human targets on the ground. For more information, see EPIC: Domestic Drones and EPIC Spotlight on Surveillance: Drones - Eyes in the Sky.
  • Final Act: Senator Rockefeller Proposes Drone Privacy Bill » (Dec. 24, 2014)
    Senator Rockefeller, the outgoing Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee and a leading privacy champion, introduced a bill to require privacy safeguards in the commercial operation of drones. The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Privacy Act of 2014 would prohibit surveillance of individuals by companies unless explicit prior consent is obtained and would require the development of remote identification transmission technologies for drones. The bill would also provide a private right on action against invasions of privacy in violation of the act and grant the FTC additional authority to regulate on commercial drone privacy issues. EPIC previously testified before Congress in support of a drone privacy law. EPIC recommended data use and retention limitations as well as additional transparency and accountability measures for drone operators. For more information, see EPIC Spotlight on Surveillance: Drones - Eyes in the Sky and EPIC: Domestic Drones.
  • EPIC Asks New Mexico Supreme Court to Limit Aerial Surveillance » (Dec. 8, 2014)
    EPIC filed an amicus brief in a New Mexico Supreme Court case considering the warrantless search of private property. State v. Davis concerns law enforcement surveillance in a low-flying helicopter. EPIC argued that warrantless surveillance around a person's home violates both property interests and an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy. EPIC also warned the New Mexico high court that "Drones will enable broader use of aerial surveillance by law enforcement" agencies. EPIC explained that "it will be necessary to establish privacy rights to protect against constant monitoring." EPIC previously testified before Congress in support of a drone privacy law and petitioned the FAA to establish privacy safeguards for drone use. For more information, see EPIC: State v. Davis and EPIC: Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones.
  • FAA Grounds Drone Privacy Safeguards » (Dec. 1, 2014)
    In a letter to EPIC, the Federal Aviation Administration denied a petition to initiate a public rulemaking to address privacy and civil liberties issues posed by domestic drones. The agency stated it was not required to solicit public comments on the privacy implications of drones because privacy was "not an immediate safety concern." In March 2012, EPIC joined by over 100 other organizations, experts, and members of the public petitioned the FAA to "conduct a notice and comment rulemaking on the impact of privacy and civil liberties related to the use of drones in the United States." The agency published a notice with proposed privacy requirements for drone operators at FAA designated drone test sites. EPIC submitted comments in response to the notice, urging the agency to mandate minimum privacy standards for drone operators. After considering numerous public comments on the privacy impact of aerial drones, the FAA proposed that test site operators develop privacy policies but did not require any specific baseline privacy standards for drone operators. For more information, see EPIC: Domestic Drones and EPIC Spotlight on Surveillance: Drones - Eyes in the Sky.
  • EPIC Spotlight: Domestic Drones, Surveillance, and the Privacy Risks » (Oct. 23, 2014)
    EPIC's Spotlight on Surveillance Project returns to focus attention on domestic drone surveillance. Congress recently mandated that the Federal Aviation Administration integrate drones into the National Airspace, raising concerns about both safety and privacy. The FAA has begun granting limited exemptions to the current ban on commercial drones. EPIC's Spotlight "Eyes in the Sky" examines the surveillance capabilities of drone technology and recommend comprehensive privacy legislation. EPIC has also testified in Congress in support of drone privacy law, urged the FAA to mandate minimum privacy standards, and pursued several significant FOIA cases. For more information, see EPIC's Spotlight on Surveillance on Drones and EPIC: EPIC v. Army (Surveillance Blimps).
  • “Eyes Over Washington” - EPIC Obtains New Documents About Surveillance Blimps » (Sep. 26, 2014)
    EPIC has obtained new documents detailing the Department of Army’s use of surveillance blimps over the nation’s capital. The documents include thirty heavily redacted pages of equipment descriptions and data. In May EPIC filed suit against the Department of the Army to obtain details about a sophisticated tracking and targeting system that will be deployed over Washington, DC during the next three years. JLENS is comprised of two 250' blimps. One blimp conducts aerial and ground surveillance over a 340-mile range, while the other has targeting capability, including HELLFIRE missile capability. The JLENS was originally deployed in Iraq. In the FOIA Request, EPIC asked the Army for technical specifications as well as any policies limiting domestic surveillance. An Army spokesperson said recently that JLENS will “absolutely not” include video surveillance gear. Similar blimps have been deployed by the DHS for border security. They include video surveillance. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. Army - Surveillance Blimps and EPIC: Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones.
  • FAA Okays Hollywood Drone Use, But Privacy Safeguards Remain Grounded » (Sep. 26, 2014)
    The Federal Aviation Administration granted six exemptions for the commercial use of drones to companies in the film and television industry this week. The agency found that the proposed operation do not “pose a threat to national airspace users or national security.” Safety requirements include: line of site tracking, restrict flights to the “sterile area” on the set, inspection after each flight, and prohibiting operation at night. The agency is currently considering another 40 requests from various commercial entities. Currently, no privacy protections are in place to address the commercial use of drones. EPIC has testified in Congress in support of a comprehensive drone privacy law—calling for use limitations, data retention limitations, transparency, and public accountability. The Federal Aviation Administration to develop drone privacy guidelines after an EPIC-lead coalition petition. EPIC also urged the agency to mandate minimum privacy standards for drone operators. For more information, see EPIC: Domestic Drones.
  • UPDATE-Army Backs Off Plan for DC Surveillance Blimp » (Sep. 8, 2014)
    According to the Washington Post, the Department of Army will not deploy video surveillance cameras over the nation's capital. The announcement follows the release of documents to EPIC in a Freedom Information Act lawsuit. The blimps provide radar-based aerial surveillance and targeting capabilities. A recent video by the contractor Raytheon revealed that 24/7 video surveillance feed is easily incorporated. An Army Spokesperson told the Post that the blimps will "absolutely, 100 percent" not include video capacity. A similar EPIC FOIA case against the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection revealed that drones are designed to incorporate advance video surveillance gear even when not initially deployed. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. Army - Surveillance Blimps, EPIC: Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones, and EPIC: Freedom of Information Act Litigation.
  • Obama Drone Order Fails to Safeguard Privacy » (Jul. 25, 2014)
    According to reports, President Obama is set to issue an executive order on drone privacy. The order would call for the development of voluntary best practices for the commercial use of drones. Senator Markey and Representative Welch immediately responded to the reports with a letter to the President urging "strong, enforceable rules - not voluntary best practices...." EPIC has testified in Congress in support of a comprehensive drone privacy law. EPIC called for drone legislation to include use limitations, data retention limitations, transparency, and public accountability. The Federal Aviation Administration agreed to address drone privacy issues after an EPIC-led coalition petitioned the agency two years ago. Last year, EPIC urged the agency to mandate minimum privacy standards for drone operators. For more information, see EPIC: Domestic Drones.
  • FAA, Park Service Ground Drones, Cite Safety Concerns » (Jun. 30, 2014)
    The Federal Aviation Administration released a proposed Special Rule for Model Aircraft which will prohibit the use of drones for the delivery of packages and other commercial services. At the end of last year, Amazon had raised the prospect of delivering packages via drones. The agency has requested comments on the proposal. A recent Washington Post series highlighted numerous close encounters between commercial aircraft and small drones, as well as many incidents were drones fell from the sky. The National Park Service has prohibited the use of drones in national parks, citing safety concerns. Last year, EPIC urged the Federal Aviation Administration to mandate minimum privacy standards for drone operators. For more information, see EPIC: Domestic Drones.
  • Federal Appeals Court Releases "Drone Killing" Memo, EPIC Filed Amicus » (Jun. 23, 2014)
    The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit today made public the legal analysis justifying the Administration's controversial "targeted killing" drone program. The action follows an earlier ruling by the federal appeals court in New York Times v. Department of Justice. The government had argued that this memo could not be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act because it was a privileged "deliberative" document. But the plaintiffs explained that the government relied on the analysis to defend the program and that it operated as secret law. EPIC filed an amicus brief, supported by seven open government organization, arguing that under the FOIA such a legal opinion by the Justice Department cannot be a deliberative documents. The federal appeals court agreed, and has now released the opinion to the public. Last week, in EPIC v. NSA the Department of Justice released to EPIC NSPD-54, the President Directive concerning cybersecurity. For more information, see EPIC: New York Times v. DOJ and EPIC v. DOJ - Warrantless Wiretapping Program.
  • Senate to Hold Homeland Security Oversight Hearing » (Jun. 10, 2014)
    The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold an oversight hearing for the Department of Homeland Security. Secretary Jeh Johnson will testify. EPIC has objected to many of the agency's mass surveillance practices, including the secret profiling of American air travelers, the use of drones for aerial surveillance, the amassing of information on Americans into "fusion centers", and the collection of biometric identifiers. EPIC has also warned that the DHS Chief Privacy Officer has failed to safeguard privacy, a legal obligation for that office. According to the DHS, the number of privacy complaints increased in 2013. EPIC has several Freedom of Information Act case pending against the DHS. In an earlier case, EPIC determined the DHS was monitoring social media and news organizations for criticisms of the agency. Another EPIC case led to the removal of the x-ray backscatter devices from US airports. For more information, see EPIC v. DHS - Social Media Monitoring and EPIC v. DHS (Suspension of Body Scanner Program).
  • Press Groups Challenge Ban on Commercial Drones » (May. 13, 2014)
    Over a dozen news media organizations filed an amicus brief opposing the Federal Aviation Administration's ban on commercial drones. The ban was suspended earlier this year by an administrative judge. The news organizations argue that the ban violates the media’s First Amendment right of the press, however the rule concerns public safety not the content of speech or the identity of the speaker. EPIC, joined by over 100 organizations, previously petitioned the Federal Administration Agency to address the privacy issues raised by drones and the Agency agreed to do so. In response to a request for public comments last year, EPIC urged the Federal Aviation Administration to mandate minimum privacy standards for drone operators. For more information, see EPIC: Domestic Drones.
  • EPIC Sues Army for Information About DC Surveillance Blimps » (May. 7, 2014)
    EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of the Army for documents about JLENS, a sophisticated surveillance system that will be deployed over Washington, DC during the next three years. JLENS is comprised of two 250' blimps. One blimp conducts aerial and ground surveillance over a 340-mile range, while the other has targeting capability including HELLFIRE missiles. The JLENS was originally deployed in Iraq. In the FOIA request, EPIC asked the Army for technical specifications as well as any policies limiting domestic surveillance. EPIC has urged Congress to establish privacy safeguards for aerial drones. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. Army - Surveillance Blimps, EPIC: Drones - Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, and EPIC Spotlight on Surveillance (2005) - "Unmanned Planes Offer New Opportunities for Clandestine Government Tracking."
  • Pew Survey Finds Opposition to Drones, Robots, and Google Glass » (Apr. 21, 2014)
    A national survey conducted by Pew Research Center and Smithsonian Magazine find the American public optimistic about revolutions in health science and transportation, and concerned about technologies of surveillance. According to the survey, 63% of Americans think it would be a change for the worse if "personal and commercial drones are given permission to fly through most U.S. airspace," while 22% think it would be a change for the better. And 65% expressed concern about increased dependence on robots. Similarly, 53% of Americans think it would be a change for the worse if most people wear implants or other devices that constantly show them information about the world around them. Women are especially wary of a future in which these devices are widespread. Google Glass, an example of such technology, has come under scrutiny from Data Protection authorities as well as Congress. EPIC, joined by 100 other organizations and experts, petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration to address public concerns about privacy and drones. For more information, see EPIC: Google Glass and Privacy and EPIC: Domestic Drones.
  • Federal Judge Rules Commercial Drones Legal » (Mar. 10, 2014)
    A federal judge has ruled that commercial drones are legal, stating that the Federal Aviation Administration has not issued an enforceable regulatory rule that governs commercial drone operation. The FAA plans to appeal the decision. In 2012, Congress told the Agency to implement a plan to integrate drones into the National Airspace by 2015. Shortly after, EPIC joined by over 100 other organizations, experts, and members of the public petitioned the FAA to address privacy as part of the integration. As a result, the Agency published a notice with proposed privacy requirements for drone operators. EPIC submitted comments in response to the notice, urging the Agency to mandate minimum privacy standards for drone operators. After considering numerous public comments on the privacy impact of aerial drones, the FAA proposed a regulation that requires test site operators to develop privacy policies but does not require any specific baseline privacy protections. Several states have passed drone privacy laws and bills are also pending in Congress. For more information, see EPIC: Domestic Drones.
  • Senate Commerce Committee Considers Rules for Domestic Drones » (Jan. 17, 2014)
    The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing on "the Future of Unmanned Aviation in the U.S. Economy: Safety and Privacy Considerations." Senator Diane Feinstein noted the threat that drones pose to both privacy and safety, and described how a drone once flew outside her home during a demonstration. Later in the hearing, Senator Ed Markey, who held up an AR Parrot Drone during the hearing, has written legislation to safeguard privacy. And Senator Cory Booker said that drones put him "between my Star Trek aspirations and my Terminator fears." The Committee heard testimony from FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. The FAA is responsible for integrating drones into the U.S. domestic airspace by 2015. EPIC had petitioned the FAA to implement privacy rules for drones. The FAA responded to EPIC's petition and has required, as an interim step, each of the six selected test sites for drone deployment to establish a public privacy policy. For more information, see EPIC: Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Drones.
  • Department of Defense Proposes Autonomous Drones, Expanded Surveillance Mission » (Jan. 7, 2014)
    A new Department of Defense report "Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap" sets out "a technological vision for the next 25 years" of drone deployment. The DOD report suggests that budgets cuts are increasing the need for autonomous drones with onboard intelligence. One documentary describes the role of the the Department of Defense developing sophisticated surveillance technologies. The new DOD report states that surveillance is one of the primary purposes for pursuing drone technology, particularly for "surveillance missions that involve prolonged observation." An EPIC FOIA request revealed that domestic drones deployed by the Department of Homeland Security can be deployed with the ability to intercept electronic communications and to recognize individuals on the ground. EPIC has recommended privacy safeguards to limit drone surveillance in the United States. For more information, see EPIC: Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Drones.
  • FAA Releases Drone Roadmap, Privacy Not Required for Test Sites » (Nov. 11, 2013)
    In a press release, the Federal Aviation Administration announced the "roadmap" for the integration of drones into domestic airspace. After considering numerous public comments on the privacy impact of aerial drones, the FAA proposed a regulation that requires test site operators to develop privacy policies but does not require any specific baseline privacy protections. The FAA rulemaking came about in response to an extensive petition submitted by EPIC, broadly supported by civil liberties organizations and the general public. EPIC urged the agency to require adherence to the Fair Information Practices, disclosure of data collection and minimization practices, and independent audits. For more information, see EPIC: Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones.
  • EPIC FOIA - New Information on Drone Flight Applicants » (Oct. 2, 2013)
    The Federal Aviation Administration has responded to an EPIC FOIA Request seeking documents related to applications to fly drones domestically. The FAA provided a list of nearly 200 entities within the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and state and federal law enforcement agencies. The FAA further responded to EPIC's request for information by making the drone licenses, or "certificates," available on a public portal. EPIC has called on the FAA to maintain a searchable database of all drone operators as the Agency seeks to expand domestic drone use. For more information see EPIC: Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones.
  • Senator Rand Paul Seeks Answers About FBI's Domestic Drone Use » (Jun. 21, 2013)
    Senator Rand Paul issued a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller seeking answers about the FBI's domestic use of drones. In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on FBI oversight, Director Mueller admitted that the FBI uses drones for domestic surveillance. Mueller also stated there were no guidelines in place to regulate the FBIs use of drones and protect the privacy of Americans. EPIC petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration last year to conduct a public rulemaking to address the threat to privacy and civil liberties the domestic use of drones pose. EPIC also petitioned the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection this year to establish privacy regulations for its use of drones. For more information, see EPIC: Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones.
  • Amendment to Immigration Bill Seeks to Limit Drone Surveillance on Border » (May. 15, 2013)
    The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved an Amendment to the immigration bill to limit the range of drones surveillance in the United States. The immigration bill grants the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection authority to operate surveillance drones continuously within the border region. Senator Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) Amendment reduces the patrol area of surveillance drones from 100 miles around the border to 25 miles. More than two-thirds of the US population lives within 100 miles of the border. In February 2013, EPIC petitioned the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection to suspend the border drone surveillance program pending the establishment of concrete privacy regulations. The petition followed the production of documents to EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act demonstrating that the border drones had the ability to intercept electronic communications and identify human targets. For more information, see EPIC: Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones.
  • EPIC to FAA: Establish Privacy Standards for Drone Use » (Apr. 23, 2013)
    EPIC has submitted comments to the Federal Aviation Administration, urging the agency to mandate minimum privacy standards for drone operators. In 2012, Congress told the Agency to implement a comprehensive plan to integrate drones into the National Airspace. Shortly after, EPIC, joined by over 100 other organizations, experts, and members of the public, petitioned the agency to address privacy in the integration process. EPIC's petition noted, "drones greatly increase the capacity for domestic surveillance." In February 2013, the Agency responded to EPIC's petition, announcing it would "address [privacy issues] through engagement and collaboration with the public." As a result, the FAA published a Notice with proposed privacy requirements for drone operators. EPIC recommended that the FAA mandate the proposed privacy standards, which are based on Fair Information Practices, and maintain a public database of all drone operators. For more information, see EPIC: Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Drones.
  • EPIC Petitions Government to Suspend Drone Surveillance Program » (Mar. 22, 2013)
    EPIC, joined by thirty organizations and more than a thousand individuals, has petitioned the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection to suspend the domestic drone surveillance program, pending the establishment of concrete privacy regulations. The petition states that "the use of drones for border surveillance presents substantial privacy and civil liberties concerns for millions of Americans across the country." The petition follows the revelation that the drones deployed by the federal agency are equipped with technology for signals interception and human identification. For more inform at ion, see EPIC: Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones.
  • Congressman Markey Introduces Drone Privacy Legislation » (Mar. 19, 2013)
    Congressman Markey has introduced the "Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act of 2013." The Bill sets out comprehensive transparency requirements for drone operators to protect privacy from unregulated drone surveillance. Under the terms of the bill, drone operators would be required to submit a detailed data collection and data minimization statement prior to obtaining a license to operate drones in the United States. The bill also states that surveillance by law enforcement agencies will require a warrant or extreme exigent circumstances.Congressman Markey said that privacy legislation is necessary to "prevent flying robots from becoming spying robots." For more information, see EPIC: Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones.
  • EPIC to Testify at Senate Hearing on Drones and Domestic Surveillance » (Mar. 18, 2013)
    Amie Stepanovich, the Director of EPIC's Domestic Surveillance Project, will testify this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee on "the Future of Drones in America." The hearing will feature expert testimony from EPIC Advisory Board member Professor Ryan Calo. Documents recently obtained by EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act indicate that the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection has deployed drones in the United States with the ability to intercept electronic communication and to identity human targets. As a consequence, EPIC has launched a petition urging the agency to suspend the drone program pending the establishment of comprehensive privacy regulations. Following a similar petition from EPIC, the FAA recently agreed to establish privacy rules for drone deployment. For more information, see EPIC: Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Drones.
  • EPIC Launches Petition to Suspend Government Drone Program » (Mar. 4, 2013)
    EPIC has published a petition to the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, demanding the suspension of the drone program pending the development of privacy regulations for the use of drones in US airspace. Documents recently obtained by EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act indicate that the drones are equipped with technology for signals interception and human identification. The agency currently operates ten Predator B drones along the border region, an area that encompasses more than two-thirds of the U.S. population. EPIC is urging individuals and organizations to Sign the Petition before March 18. Under federal law, the agency is required to respond to public petitions. For more information see EPIC: Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones and EPIC: Drone Petition to Customs and Border Protection.
  • EPIC FOIA - US Drones Intercept Electronic Communications and Identify Human Targets » (Feb. 28, 2013)
    New records obtained by EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act indicate that the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection is operating drones in the United States capable of intercepting electronic communications. The records also suggest that the ten Predator B drones operated by the agency have the capacity to recognize and identify a person on the ground. Approximately, 2/3 of the US population is subject to surveillance by the CBP drones. The documents were provided in response to a request from EPIC for information about the Bureau's use of drones across the country. The agency has made the Predator drones available to other federal, state, and local agencies. The records obtained by EPIC raise questions abut the agency's compliance with federal privacy laws and the scope of domestic surveillance. For more information, see EPIC: Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones.
  • DHS Working Group to Consider Privacy Impact of Drones » (Feb. 21, 2013)
    The Department of Homeland Security has released a previously internal memo regarding the establishment of a working group to "Safeguard Privacy, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties in the Department's Use and Support of Unmanned Aerial Systems" (drones). The memo states, "[t]he overarching goal of the working group is to determine what policies and procedures are needed to ensure that protections for privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties are designed into DHS and DHS-funded [drone] programs." DHS has developed a program to explore the expansive use of small drones for law enforcement. Customs and Border Protection currently operates 10 Predator B drones in the United States. In testimony before Congress in July 2012, EPIC said that federal agencies operating drones should adopt privacy regulations. For more information, see EPIC: Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones.
  • New Legislation Aimed At Protecting Privacy From Domestic Drones » (Feb. 15, 2013)
    Congressman Poe (R-TX) and Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) have introduced the "Preserving American Privacy Act of 2013," targeted at providing individual privacy protections in regard to drone surveillance. The bill would require all drone operators to submit a public data collection statement that includes a description of the drone's purpose and intended operations. The bill also would require a warrant in order for drone surveillance information to be received as evidence and includes a ban on equipping drones with firearms. EPIC has twice (1, 2) asked Congress to protect individual privacy against increased use of domestic drones. EPIC, joined by over 100 organizations, experts, and members of the public, petitioned the FAA to establish privacy safeguards. For more information, see EPIC: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones.
  • EPIC Petitions FAA on Drone Privacy, Agency Responds » (Feb. 14, 2013)
    In response to an extensive petition submitted by EPIC, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced it will begin a public rulemaking on the privacy impact of aerial drones. The EPIC petition, joined by over 100 organizations, experts, and members of the public, urged the FAA to develop privacy standards for drone operators. In a letter to EPIC President Marc Rotenberg, the FAA Chief Counsel stated, "the FAA recognizes that increasing the use of [drones] raises privacy concerns. The agency intends to address these issues through engagement and collaboration with the public." The FAA's announcement comes exactly one year after President Obama signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which directed the FAA to loosen restrictions on government and commercial drone flights in the United States. For more information, see EPIC: Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones.
  • States Move to Limit Drone Surveillance » (Feb. 7, 2013)
    Oregon became the most recent state to consider limits on the deployment of drones in the United States. A new bill sets out licensing requirements for drone use in Oregon and would fine those who use unlicensed drone to conduct surveillance. New limitations are also proposed for federal evidence collected by drone use in a state court. Florida, North Dakota, and Missouri are among the other states that are also considering laws that limit drone use within their jurisdiction. For more information, see EPIC: Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones.
  • Report for Congress on Domestic Drone Use Highlights Privacy Concerns » (Jan. 31, 2013)
    A new report[ from the Congressional Research Service -- "Integration of Drones into Domestic Airspace: Selected Legal Issues" -- states that "perhaps the most contentious issue concerning the introduction of drones into U.S. airspace is the threat that this technology will be used to spy on American citizens." Last year, EPIC warned Congress that "there are substantial legal and constitutional issues involved in the deployment of aerial drones by federal agencies." EPIC, joined by over 100 organizations, experts, and members of the public, has petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration to begin a rule making to establish privacy safeguards. For more information, see EPIC: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones.
  • Senator Leahy Sets Out Judiciary Committee Agenda for New Congress » (Jan. 17, 2013)
    On January 16, 2013, Georgetown University Law School hosted Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Leahy set out the agenda of the Judiciary Committee in the 113th Congress, vowing to commit the Committee to addressing "out most fundamental rights, and our most basic freedoms." Updates to key legislation, including laws on e-mail privacy and cybersecurity, are included in the Committee's agenda. The Chairman explained that the Committee would also address the need for oversight of US counterterrorism programs as well as privacy issues involved with the growing use of domestic surveillance drones. Furthermore, Senator Leahy emphasized the importance of open government as an American value, promising to "continue to fight for transparency that keeps the government accountable to the people." For more information, see EPIC: Electronic Communications Privacy Act, EPIC: Open Government, and EPIC: Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones.
  • EPIC Hosts Event on Drones and Surveillance at National Press Club » (Jan. 15, 2013)
    On January 15, 2013 EPIC hosted "Drones and Domestic Surveillance," at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The symposium brought together experts in law, technology, and public policy to discuss the expanding use of unmanned vehicles in the United States. The event featured Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) as the keynote speaker and was moderated by EPIC's Executive Director, Marc Rotenberg. Congressman Poe announced his plans to introduce a bill in 2013, co-sponsored by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) to protect privacy against increased drone use. Panelists at the event included technologist Bruce Schneier, privacy scholars Laura Donohue and Orin Kerr, CATO fellow Julian Sanchez, EPIC's Amie Stepanovich, and Gretchen West of AUVSI. EPIC, and a coalition of experts and organizations, have petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration to develop privacy regulations for drone use. For more information, see EPIC: Drones and Domestic Surveillance and EPIC: Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones.
  • Representative Markey Introduces Privacy Legislation for Aerial Drones » (Dec. 18, 2012)
    Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) has introduced the Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act. The bill calls for the Federal Aviation Administration to complete a report on the privacy implications of domestic drone use. In addition, the bill will require drone operators to submit a data collection and data minimization statement concerning the collection of personally identifiable information. EPIC has twice (1, 2) asked Congress to protect individual privacy against increased use of domestic drones. EPIC, joined by over 100 organizations, experts, and members of the public, petitioned the FAA to establish privacy safeguards. For more information, see EPIC: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones.
  • Aviation Industry to FAA: "Ignore Privacy" » (Dec. 7, 2012)
    Aviation groups have asked the Federal Aviation Administration to ignore the privacy implications of increased drone use in the United States. The letter follows the FAA statement that domestic drones “raises privacy issues [that] will need to be addressed.” Earlier this year, EPIC warned Congress, "there are substantial legal and constitutional issues involved in the deployment of aerial drones by federal agencies." EPIC, joined by over 100 organizations, experts, and members of the public, has petitioned the FAA to to establish privacy safeguards. For more information, see EPIC: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones.
  • EPIC to Congress: Protect Privacy Against Drone Surveillance » (Nov. 5, 2012)
    EPIC participated in a Congressional Hearing on the Impact of Domestic Drone Use Technology on Privacy and Constitutional Rights of All Americans, held at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX), sponsor of H.R. 6449: Air Travelers' Bill of Rights Act of 2012, convened the hearing. Joining Congressman Poe were Representatives Michael McCaul (R-TX), Hank Johnson (D-GA), and Sandy Adams (R-FL). EPIC's Amie Stepanovich testified on the need for specific laws to limit drone surveillance in the United States. In a prepared statement, EPIC recommended a warrant requirement for drone surveillance by police as well as data use limitations, and transparency obligations for drone operators. In February, EPIC, joined by over 100 organizations, experts, and members of the public, petitioned the FAA to begin a rule making on the privacy impact of drone use. The Agency has not yet responded to the EPIC Petition. For more information, see EPIC: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones.
  • New Government Report Highlights Privacy Risks » (Sep. 24, 2012)
    A new report from the Government Accountability Office outlines the risks of increased domestic drone use -- "Unmanned Aircraft Systems" -- following adoption of a recent law. The GAO report -- "Measuring Progress and Addressing Potential Privacy Concerns Would Facilitate Integration into the National Airspace System" -- notes widespread concern about privacy. The GAO report found that privacy "concerns include the potential for increased amounts of government surveillance using technologies placed on UAS, the collection and use of such data, and potential violations of constitutional Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizures." The report also notes that "non-military unmanned aircraft system GPS signals are unencrypted, risking potential interruption of command and control . . .." Earlier this year, EPIC warned Congress that "there are substantial legal and constitutional issues involved in the deployment of aerial drones by federal agencies." EPIC, joined by over 100 organizations, experts, and members of the public, has petitioned the FAA to begin a rule making to establish privacy safeguards. For more information, see EPIC: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones.
  • New CRS Report Finds Few Protections For Drone Surveillance » (Sep. 7, 2012)
    "Drones in Domestic Surveillance Operations," a new report from the the Congressional Research Service, examines current law, the Fourth Amendment, and recently introduced legislation. The CRS finds that "the prospect of drone use inside the United States raises far-reaching issues concerning the extent of government surveillance authority, the value of privacy in the digital age, and the role of Congress in reconciling these issues." In testimony before a House Subcommittee earlier this year, EPIC's Amie Stepanovich stated, "there are substantial legal and constitutional issues involved in the deployment of aerial drones by federal agencies that need to be addressed." EPIC recommended that the FAA develop privacy rules, that DHS conduct a privacy assessment, and that Congress establish new privacy safeguards. EPIC, joined by over 100 organizations, experts, and members of the public, has also petitioned the FAA to begin a rulemaking on the privacy impact of drone use. For more information, see EPIC: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones.
  • 2012 Republican Platform Addresses Privacy and Government Surveillance » (Aug. 29, 2012)
    The 2012 Republican Party Platform calls for strong Constitutional protections for privacy and new safeguards for personal data held by businesses. "We will ensure that personal data receives full constitutional protection from government overreach and that individuals retain the right to control the use of their data by third parties," the platform states. The platform also criticizes TSA screening procedures and calls for warrant requirements for most law enforcement-operated drones. However, other provisions endorse voter identification laws and increased disclosure of personal information to the government for cyber security. For more information, see EPIC: Privacy and Consumer Profiling, EPIC: Whole Body Imaging Technology and Body Scanners, EPIC: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones, EPIC: Voter Photo ID and Privacy, and EPIC: Cybersecurity Privacy Practical Implications.
  • Republican Party Seeks To Limit Drone Surveillance » (Aug. 28, 2012)
    The 2012 Republican Party Platform advocates Fourth Amendment limits on government drones. “We support pending legislation to prevent unwarranted or unreasonable governmental intrusion through the use of aerial surveillance or flyovers on U.S. soil, with the exception of patrolling our national borders.” Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Representative Austin Scott (R-GA), introduced legislation earlier this year to limit aerial drone surveillance. In March, the House approved an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, introduced by Representative Landry (R-LA), that prohibits information collected without a warrant by drones operated by the Department of Defense from being used in court. Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) has also proposed comprehensive legislation for drones. For more information, see EPIC: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones.
  • Markey Bill Would Limit Drone Surveillance » (Aug. 1, 2012)
    Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) has announced a bill aimed at protecting individual privacy from drone surveillance. Rep. Markey said, "When it comes to privacy protections for the American people, drones are flying blind." The draft bill requires the FAA to establish privacy safeguards for drone operators and creates new limits on data collection by law enforcement agencies. Earlier this year, EPIC, joined by over 100 organizations, experts, and members of the public, petitioned FAA to begin a rulemaking on the privacy impact of drone use. For more information, see EPIC: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Drones.

Background

A "drone," or "unmanned aircraft," is an aerial vehicle designed to be used without a human pilot onboard. Drones can be remote controlled or purely automated. The history of Drones shows peaks and valleys in their development, with most advances occurring during times of war. Drones gained notoriety during their use in the post-9/11 armed conflicts in the Middle East. The United States government use drones to conduct detailed surveillance on countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran, as well as to drop targeted missiles. In early 2007, more than 700 drones were being utilized in Iraq alone.

Due to the heights at which drones can fly, they are often beyond the range of sight for most people. In addition, drones can also be designed to be very small and maneuverable. This means drone surveillance often occurs without the knowledge of the individual being monitored.

Aeriel surveillance of drones within the United States raises significant privacy issues. These vehicles can gather detailed information on individuals.

Requirements to Operate a Drone Domestically

In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a component of the Department of Trasnportation, is the agency responsible with licensing drones for domestic use. The FAA is charged with promulgating minimum standards for air safety in the United States National Air Space.

On September 16, 2005, the FAA issued guidelines on the domestic use of drones. The FAA then released a policy document concerning the operation of drone aircraft on February 13, 2007. Between the two documents, the requirements to institute the use of drone aircraft in the United States are made clear. These requirements were further elaborated on in a fact sheet on December 1, 2010.

The current requirements for a drone to be operated in U.S. are largely perfunctory, and focus mainly on the safety of the aircraft itself. Before a drone can be deployed in the United States, the drone must prove to be airworthy, and be granted either an FAA certification or (for drones operated by the government only) an airworthiness statement from the Department of Defense. Recreational operators of unmanned aircraft (used under 400 feet) are not required to comply with this requirement, though they are held to a standard of "good judgment."

For now, commercial drones may only be used under an "experimental" designation, which is accompanied by operational limitations. Government drones may operate more freely, though the government must obtain a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) in order to operate a drone aircraft. The guidelines provide that an application for a COA "must include a hazard analysis, risk assessment, and other appropriate documentation that support the determination that injury to persons or property is extremely improbable."

The FAA is currently evaluating test sites in the United States to evaluate the safety impact of widespread drone deployment.

Drones in the United States

Since 2005, the FAA has issued 78 certificates to commercial drones. The FAA has had to increase staffing in order to keep up with the mounting demand for government licenses. In late 2010, there were 273 active government licenses, nearly 100 more than the previous year. Reports in 2012 demonstrate that the FAA has issued more than 300 drone licenses. Only minimal information has been released on the nature and function of these drones.

Many law enforcement offices in the United States have purchased drones, including Montgomery, Texas, Seattle, Washington, and Gadsden, Alabama. The Governor of Virginia said in 2012 that he thought it would be "great" to have drones flying over his State. The Miami-Dade Police Department in Florida used Federal grant money to purchase a small drone vehicle. Reports dating back to 2008 explain that Miami was seeking to use a small drone known as a Micro-Air Vehicle, "to gather real time information in situations which may be too dangerous for officers." However, police have admitted that the drone can be used to look into houses. As of December 2010, the FAA was reporting that they were cooperating with urban police departments in Houston and Miami on test programs involving unmanned aircraft. One drone manufacturer advertises on its webpage that police offices that want to own a drone should seek funding from the Department of Homeland Security.

Some of these government licenses belong to the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP). CBP is a component of the Department of Homeland Security and has a mission that includes "keeping terrorists and weapons out of the United States." Drones have been used by CBP to patrol of United States borders since 2005. As of June 2012, CBP owned 10 drones. In December 2011, the CBP made headlines when reporters discovered that the agency's drones were being used to assist local law enforcement in North Dakota without receiving prior approval from the FAA or any other agency. Some reports indicate that this is a general practice.

Technical Capabilities

Surveillance drones are equipped with sophisticated imaging technology that provides the ability to obtain detailed photographs of terrain, people, homes, and even small objects.

Gigapixel cameras used to outfit drones are among the highest definition cameras available, and can "provide real-time video streams at a rate of 10 frames a second." On some drones, operators can track up to 65 different targets across a distance of 65 square miles. Drones may also carry infrared cameras, heat sensors, GPS, sensors that detect movement, and automated license plate readers. In the near future these cameras may include facial recognition technology that would make it possible to remotely identify individuals in parks, schools, and at political gatherings.

Drones present a unique threat to privacy. Drones are designed to undertake constant, persistent surveillance to a degree that former methods of video surveillance were unable to achieve. "By virtue of their design, their size, and how high they can fly, [drones] can operate undetected in urban and rural environments."

The increased use of drones poses an ongoing threat to every person residing within the United States. Companies are developing "paparazzi drones" in order to follow and photograph celebrities. Private detectives are starting to use drones to track their targets. Google, inc. has deployed street-level drones in other countries to supplement the images of Street View. Criminals and others may use drones for purposes of stalking and harassment.

The consequences of increased government surveillance through the use of drones are even more troubling. The ability to link facial recognition capabilities on drone cameras to the FBI's Next Generation Identification database or DHS' IDENT database, two of the largest collections of biometric data in the world, increases the First Amendment risks for would-be political dissidents. In addition, the use of drones implicates significant Fourth Amendment interests and well established common law privacy rights. With special capabilities and enhanced equipment, drones are able to conduct far-more detailed surveillance, obtaining high-resolution picture and video, peering inside high-level windows, and through solid barriers, such as fences, trees, and even walls.

Privacy Issues

The US Supreme Court has held that individuals do not generally have Fourth Amendment rights with respect to aerial surveillance because of the ability that anyone might have to observe what could be viewed from the air. Of course, individuals do not operate drone vehicles with the capabilities of the US government. Also, some state courts have reached different conclusions about the privacy issues associated with aerial surveillance.

In other cases where advanced technologies have allowed increasingly intrusive Government surveillance, courts have adjusted Fourth Amendment doctrine to account for the effect of technological change on the reasonable expectation of privacy. In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled in Kyllo v. US that the use of a device that is not in "general public use" is a search even if it does not physically invade the home. In 2010, the D.C. Circuit Court required the Department of Homeland Security to undertake a new APA rulemaking when the Agency sought to implement Whole Body Imaging technology in the place of metal detectors as primary screening tools at U.S. airports. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled in US v. Jones that the attachment of a GPS device to a car with the intent of gathering information was a "search" under the Fourth Amendment. The Jones decision marks a significant change from the previous doctrine, based on US v. Knotts, that an individual has no reasonable expectation of privacy in their location on public roads.

Drone surveillance also implicates public safety issues as the drones operate in airspace that may also be used by commercial and private aircraft. For this reason, federal agencies should regulate and control the proliferation of drone surveillance.

The House of Representatives approved an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 to prohibit information collected by Department of Defense drones without a warrant from being used as evidence in court. In June 2012, identical bills were introduced in the House and the Senate to require a warrant before drones could be used for most instances of criminal surveillance. Other bills also discuss the use of drones in the United States.

EPIC's Interest

EPIC has a long history defending against intrusive surveillance programs.

In 2008, EPIC launched Observing Surveillance, a project that documented the surge in the number of video cameras placed in DC's public spaces. EPIC's Executive Director, Marc Rotenberg, appeared before the DC City Council to support efforts to suspend an expensive and invasive system of 5,200 surveillance cameras in the nation's capitol. In 2011, EPIC fought to attract attention to the FAST Project, DHS' public testing of a new sensor array used to conduct covert surveillance of individuals who are not suspected of any crime. Additionally, EPIC works to protect location privacy against government monitoring in many ways, including filing a "friend of the court" brief in U.S. v. Jones, urging the Court to find warrantless GPS tracking device by the police unconstitutional.

In 2005, EPIC first publicized the impact that drones have on Privacy, specifically in the area of border surveillance. EPIC explained, "the use of UAVs gives the federal government a new capability to monitor citizens clandestinely, while the effectiveness of the expensive, crash-prone surveillance planes in border patrol operations has not been proved."

On February 24, 2012, EPIC, joined by over 100 organizations, experts, and members of the public, submitted a petition to the FAA requesting a notice and comment rulemaking under the Administrative Procedure Act on the privacy impact of drones. The petition pointed out that the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (signed on February 14, 2012) provides an opportunity for the Agency to address the privacy questions raised by drone usage. On July 13, 2012, EPIC's Amie Stepanovich testified in front of the House Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Management, stating "there are substantial legal and constitutional issues involved in the deployment of aerial drones by federal agencies that need to be addressed."

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