A challenge to privacy?

french-firefighter-droneThis week, proposed EC policy recommendations on how to protect fundamental rights of citizens whilst promoting the European civil ‘RPAS’ industry will be reviewed. At an EC (DG ENTR) workshop in Brussels on Monday, stakeholders, including the APPG on Drones, offered feedback on 4 draft recommendations aimed at European policy-makers and the industry.

In summary, the recommendations are:

  1. the EC should provide training and advice to raise awareness of existing privacy and data protection requirements;
  2. the civil drone sector should be subject to mandatory transparency protocols. The EC should also support the development of a national or cross-national information resource to enable citizens to identify missions, operations and whether personal data is being collected;
  3. the EC should require mandatory privacy impact assessments for each type of civil drone operation undertaken; and
  4. the EC should encourage the closer integration of Civil Aviation Authorities and Data Protection Agencies to address enforcement issues.

The APPG Officers welcome the EC’s lead in this area. However, there is more work to be done at both EU and national level. The APPG written response and presentation invites further consideration of the complex privacy implications of civil drones which may gather 4 types of data, some of which fall outside the Data Protection regime. Those data types are: personal, locations, bodily (biometric) and communications (interception).

In view of potential inadequacies in the current legal frameworks that may apply, the APPG suggests:

  1. a multi-layered approach, combining ‘top down’ legislation at both EU and national level with ‘bottom down’ privacy and human rights impact assessment;
  2. protecting the core safeguards identified by new ‘hard’ law;
  3. identifying areas for review by Member States; and
  4. considering practical ways of protecting the rights to information and data access including ‘number plates’ for drones, a requirement for electronic signals emitting basic information on the operator, mission and data collected, and the introduction of ‘data collection statements’.

The timescale for the consultation (5 working days when parliament in recess) has meant that submissions from the House of Lords EU Sub-Committee on the civil use of drones or the Government’s RPAS Working Group were not feasible in time for Monday’s event. The APPG Officers hope their contribution is useful and look forward to seeing the final policy recommendations.

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