Don't be a jerk.
That's essentially what a new set of government guidelines boils down to when it comes to flying drones. The recommendations, which were published Thursday by a branch of the Commerce Department, are merely voluntary. But they offer a succinct summary for how not to violate other people's privacy — because, if we're being honest, some of us probably do need to be reminded.
The full document stretches on for several pages and gets a little technical, but the plain-English summary is provided as an appendix:
- If you can, tell other people you’ll be taking pictures or video of them before you do.
- If you think someone has a reasonable expectation of privacy, don’t violate that privacy by taking pictures, video, or otherwise gathering sensitive data, unless you’ve got a very good reason.
- Don’t fly over other people’s private property without permission if you can easily avoid doing so.
- Don’t gather personal data for no reason, and don’t keep it for longer than you think you have to.
- If you keep sensitive data about other people, secure it against loss or theft.
- If someone asks you to delete personal data about him or her that you’ve gathered, do so, unless you’ve got a good reason not to.
- If anyone raises privacy, security, or safety concerns with you, try and listen to what they have to say, as long as they’re polite and reasonable about it.
- Don’t harass people with your drone.
Media organizations are explicitly exempted from these suggestions. That's because the government doesn't want to run the risk of appearing like it's treading on First Amendment principles. But they aren't legally binding anyway. Drawing up those kinds of regulations falls to the Federal Aviation Administration, which is still in the process of finalizing rules for the kind of commercial drone usage that could someday lead to package delivery by quadcopter and other new innovative services.