Urban Unmanned Aerial Systems Operations: On Privacy, Data Protection, and Surveillance
On Privacy, Data Protection, and Surveillance
The drone sector offers a wide range of affordances, opportunities, and economic benefits for society. Delivery services, agriculture monitoring, wildfire control, public infrastructure inspections, humanitarian aid, or drone journalism, are among the activities enhanced by unmanned aerial systems (UAS). No surprise the civilian UAS market is growing fast throughout the world. Yet, on a daily basis, newspapers report serious concerns for people infringing other people’s rights through the use of drones. Cybersecurity attacks, data theft, criminal offences brought about the use of this technology frame the picture. Nowadays, several countries are changing their legal rules to properly address such challenges. In 2018, the European Union (EU) started its five year-long regulative process that should establish the common rules and standards for UAS operations within the EU Single Sky by 2023. A similar timeline has been adopted in the United States, so as to provide the jurisdictional boundaries for the civilian use of drones. The United Kingdom (UK) and Japan are adopting new rules too. From a legal point of view, the overall framework is thus rapidly evolving. The aim of this paper is to give attention to (i) privacy and data protection concerns raised by UAS operations; (ii) their monitoring functions and corresponding surveillance issues; and, (iii) how a privacy preserving approach – such as with privacy by design technologies, organizational measures, audit procedures, civic involvement, to name a few – makes a lawful and ethical use of this powerful technology possible.
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