On Monday, August 3, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) kicked off the multistakeholder process to develop best practices for commercial and private unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) use. As we previously reported, the NTIA action follows the White House’s February 15, 2015, Presidential Memorandum directing NTIA to lead private sector groups toward the creation of commercial UAS standards and the NTIA’s request for comments on privacy, transparency, and accountability issues related to the use of UAS.
The stated purpose of the meeting was to establish a common level of understanding of relevant UAS issues, identify high priority issues for the group, and provide a structure for the upcoming discussions. Notably, the NTIA clarified that the purpose of this process is to create “best practices” for UAS and not a “code of conduct” that would be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, as had been the goal of previous multistakeholder processes led by the NTIA.
Stakeholders first heard from representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), who presented on the regulatory and legal environment for the operation of UAS. The FAA described current ways to operate UAS, the conditions limiting such operations, and an overview of the small UAS rule. The FAA also reiterated that it does not have jurisdiction over privacy issues.
Associate Professor Gregory S. McNeal, co-founder of AirMap.IO, spoke next. Professor McNeal discussed the types of UAS in the marketplace, and the current and future uses of UAS.
John Verdi of the NTIA then asked the group to identify the top priority items that should be addressed by this process. Stakeholders suggested privacy issues such as notice, choice, and de-identification practices. Other issues noted included identification of UAS users, data security requirements, reporting obligations, and protecting first amendment rights. This list likely will evolve and expand over the course of the NTIA process. Participants in the discussion included: the Future of Privacy Forum, NetChoice, Verizon, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Association of Realtors, AirMap.IO, State Farm Insurance, the National Press Photographers Association, DJI, the Small UAV Coalition, the Consumer Electronics Association, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, and others.
Finally, stakeholders discussed how to prioritize the issues list and its work going forward. Ideas such as the creation of a charter to articulate timelines and the goals of the group, the use of sub-working groups, and briefings on current privacy law and best practices were considered. A clear process to finalize best practices was not agreed to by the stakeholders.
The next multistakeholder meeting will be held on September 24. We expect the discussion will focus on existing best practices for privacy, transparency, and accountability related to the use of UAS, a list of use cases to identify UAS issues that raise the most concerns, and whether the group should adopt a charter and/or timelines for its work.