The development of a new technology, significant improvement of a current technology, or the new application of an existing technology often results in concerns about the impact on individual privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties. The integration of government and commercial unmanned aircraft systems into the National Airspace System by 2015, as required by the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, has prompted questions about how this might impact individual rights. In this regard, CRCL, Privacy, and CBP jointly established the DHS Unmanned Aircraft Systems Privacy, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Working Group in September 2012 to “provide leadership to the homeland security enterprise by clarifying the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties legal and policy issues surrounding government use of [Unmanned Aircraft Systems].” The Working Group drafted the best practices.
DHS publishes these best practices to inform DHS and our local, state, and federal government partners and grantees interested in establishing unmanned aircraft programs grounded in policies and procedures that are respectful of privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties. These best practices are not prescriptive, but represent an optimal approach to sustaining privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties throughout the lifecycle of an unmanned aircraft systems program. Although the intended audience is DHS and other government agencies, the private sector may also find these practices instructive in creating or operating unmanned aircraft programs.