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NTIA Seeks Comment on Drone Privacy Plan

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration is seeking comment on a multistakeholder process to develop privacy best practices for commercial drone use.

"The public is invited to submit suggestions concerning the structure of the multistakeholder engagement and the substantive issues stakeholders will discuss," said NTIA, which said it expects to hold the first stakeholder meeting within 90 days. That was actually the timetable given by the White House, which released an executive order Feb. 15 with rules for government drone use and for creating a process for promoting protection of privacy, civil rights and civil liberties in commercial and private use (like the guy who landed the drone on the White House lawn) of drones.

TV stations are testing drones for news gathering and last fall the FAA approved exemptions to drone regulations that will allow TV and movies to use the small, unmanned aircraft to get killer shots without endangering any humans.

NTIA is charged with coming up with a framework for insuring "privacy, accountability, and transparency for commercial and private UAS [unmanned aircraft system] use."

NTIA has plenty of experience along those lines. It has been teaming with the Federal Trade Commission on coming up with voluntary guidelines for enforcing the President's privacy bill of rights, including mobile app privacy, to mixed reviews.

On the government side, the President ordered that government agencies will only collect information "relevant to an authorized purpose," kept only for 180 days or less unless absolutely necessary, and will not be shared out side the agency unless required by law.

Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, who has been critical of the multistakeholder effort on other privacy issues, already had a comment for NTIA.

"Today’s NTIA announcement on its drone stakeholder plan, right after its Privacy Bill of Rights bill was roundly criticized by nearly everyone (including most consumer groups) shows how out of touch the White House and Commerce Department are on data issues," he said. "Hardly anyone believes the stakeholder process works. Allowing industry lobbyist-dominated meetings, where consumer groups are vastly outnumbered and there is no representation from civil rights organizations and many others, to determine the privacy rules of the air is irresponsible.

"The FTC and FCC should be tasked with developing a plan, which can ensure diverse and independent perspectives to protect privacy are developed."