Domestic Drones and Privacy: A Primer

Richard M. Thompson for the Congressional Research Service: “There are two overarching privacy issues implicated by domestic drone use. The first is defining what “privacy” means in the context of aerial surveillance. Privacy is an ambiguous term that can mean different things in different contexts. This becomes readily apparent when attempting to apply traditional privacy concepts such as personal control and secrecy to drone surveillance. Other, more nuanced privacy theories such as personal autonomy and anonymity must be explored to get a fuller understanding of the privacy risks posed by drone surveillance. Moreover, with ever-increasing advances in data storage and manipulation, the subsequent aggregation, use, and retention of drone-obtained data may warrant an additional privacy impact analysis.

The second predominant issue is which entity should be responsible for regulating drones and privacy. As the final arbiter of the Constitution, the courts are naturally looked upon to provide at least the floor of privacy protection from UAS surveillance, but as will be discussed in this report, under current law, this protection may be minimal….(More)”