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NTIA Schedules Four Public Drone Meetings


Privacy Issues a Key Topic for Discussions



A Washington agency of the U.S. Dept. of Commerce is now more immersing itself in its exploration of the commercial drone business.    Back in February, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) was tasked by a memorandum from President Obama to look into certain aspects of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or drones.

The memo includes, in part:   “As UAS are integrated into the NAS, the Federal Government will take steps to ensure that the integration takes into account not only our economic competitiveness and public safety, but also the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties concerns these systems may raise.”

So far, the NTIA has taken an initial round of public comment (50 individuals’ or groups’ comments can be found on the NTIA website), and now it is scheduling meetings for “stakeholders”,  for further discussion and commentary.  These meetings are in line with, as the memorandum explains in its best government-speak, an “open, transparent, consensus-driven process to develop best practices for privacy, accountability, and transparency issues” regarding commercial and private drone use in the national airspace system   The meetings schedule is:

  • August 3, 2015, 1:00-5:00 p.m.
  • September 24, 2015, 1:00-5:00 p.m.
  • October 21, 2015, 1:00-5:00 p.m.
  • November 20, 2015, 1:00-5:00 p.m.,

All meetings to take place at :  Boardroom at the American Institute of Architects, 1735 New York Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20006

The NTIA’s announcement on this has more detail, and also says there will be interactive webcasts for each of the meetings.   The release on all this from NTIA is here:

A blog announcement from NTIA on the meetings explains:  “ We are looking forward to applying our experiences promoting multistakeholder policymaking in the Internet governance and privacy arenas to this effort to craft best practices for privacy, transparency, and accountability regarding UAS. As we have in other multistakeholder forums, NTIA will act as a neutral convener, with stakeholders driving the process and determining the content of the best practices. “

These topic area were more fully detailed as areas of interest in the NTIA’s initial request for comments in March.  Covington and Burling, a Washington law firm, summarized the areas in its “Inside Privacy” newsletter:

  • Privacy: The NTIA notes that UAS “pose privacy challenges regarding collection, use, retention, and dissemination of data collected by UAS,” and encourages stakeholders to “identify safeguards that address the privacy challenges posed by commercial and private UAS use.” The NTIA asks whether certain commercial uses of UAS raise heightened privacy concerns compared to others, and whether specific best practices “would mitigate the most pressing privacy challenges while supporting innovation.”
  • Transparency: NTIA states that transparent operation of UAS “can enhance privacy and bolster other values,” and requests commenters to “identify mechanisms, such as standardized physical markings or electronic identifiers, which could promote transparent UAS operation.”  The NTIA also asks how UAS operators can inform the public about operations that “significantly impact privacy, anti-nuisance, or safety interests.”
  • Accountability: The NTIA seeks comment on “mechanisms that can promote accountable UAS operation,” such as audits and assessments.  The NTIA also asks what “rules regarding conduct, training, operation, data handling, and oversight” would promote accountability for commercial drone operations.
  • Structure: The NTIA seeks comment about how to structure the multi-stakeholder engagement process, and whether existing best practices could serve as models for the participants’ work.

Presumably, the NTIA public meetings will continue to explore these topic areas.


Posted July 17, 2015