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News Link • Privacy Rights

Innovation vs. Privacy: Why We Shouldn’t Fear Drones

• Eli Dourado via

The most important lesson of the internet age is that we can’t anticipate what will happen when we give people — from talented engineers and developers to everyday users — an exciting new platform … along with the freedom to innovate on top of it.

Few could have predicted how profoundly the internet would change our economy. In fact, it was considered “both anti-social and illegal” to use the precursor ARPAnet for commercial activities until 1989. But thanks to the “permissionless innovation” of an open platform, we now have the internet’s seemingly endless uses — not to mention its economic benefits.

This lesson matters because today, we’re on the cusp of opening up another such platform for innovation: drones. Like the internet, airspace is a platform for commercial and social innovation.

Until now, only law enforcement agencies and hobbyists have been allowed to operate drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and systems (UASs) in our airspace. But six new test sites will soon be announced for integrating commercial drones into U.S. airspace, because the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been mandated by Congress to do so everywhere within just three years.

While we’re talking about commercial — not military — applications of drones, people still have concerns: especially around privacy. In their zeal to protect people from “eyes in the skies” collecting data without permission, privacy advocates want drone operators in the early test sites to be constrained by strict privacy policy requirements.

It sounds like a good idea, but it’s not. Such requirements are unwise and definitely premature, as my colleagues Jerry Brito, Adam Thierer, and I argue in our FAA filing today.

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