Did that drone just take my picture? Is that picture going to end up being shared, along with my geographical location, to the police or some ad agency? What's it doing on my property anyway? All questions you might ask yourself when you see a quadcopter hovering overhead. And there aren't really any rules about what that pilot can or can't do. But now there are some formal recommendations from the government.
With concerns that drones are encroaching on our individual privacy on the rise, a government agency has put out voluntary recommendations for better drone operator transparency. The National Telecommunications & Information Administration released a list of best practices for announcing the collection of personal data for commercial use.
These guidelines won't stop drone operators from collecting data about you, nor are they legally enforceable. The guidelines are the result of a collaboration between drone organizations and companies like Amazon and Alphabet (Google's parent company).
The recommendations urge commercial and non-commercial drone pilots to clearly explain what data is being collected, if that data will be shared with others (such as law enforcement agencies) and how to submit complaints before data gets collected. That means making "a reasonable effort to provide prior notice to individuals." Basically, if a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and has proviced no consent, just don't fly there "unless you,'ve got a very good reason," the NTIA says.
The list also recommends pilots not share personal data for marketing or other purposes without express consent. That includes using data for the purposes "employment eligibility, promotion or retention; credit eligibility; or health care treatment." And if someone asks you to delete personal data about them, do so "unless you've got a good reason not to." None of these guidelines extend to the press.
The NTIA, a division of the Department of Commerce, says pilots shouldn't be flying over private property without consent either. Given the rise in anti-drone technologies out there, that's probably a smart move. And the government agency hopes to stress that because these are voluntary guidelines, they should not limit personal freedoms or supersede any local laws. The FAA is still pushing for some nationwide laws regarding drone use, beyond just the requirement that larger drones be registered.
Really, all these guidelines come down to is using some common sense. In the end the final point is really the most poignant: "Don't harass people with your drone."