Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen was correct in her July 5 Thursday Opinion essay, “Before drones attack Americans,” that U.S. laws on drones should be updated. Drones pose a risk to personal privacy, public safety and national security. But the solution is not to give the Department of Homeland Security or any federal agency unbounded authority to shoot down drones. Clear procedures and detailed consideration of the risks in taking down drones over civilian populations are needed.
Homeland Security uses drones for public surveillance. These drones could also be weaponized. Homeland Security has not completed reports required by a 2015 presidential memorandum that would help prevent the misuse of drone technology by federal agencies. Those reports should be completed before Congress takes up the secretary’s proposal.
For several years, the Electronic Privacy Information Center has urged the Federal Aviation Administration to establish privacy rules for commercial drones and registration for operators and identification requirements for drones that would allow real-time determination of the course, purpose and ownership of unmanned aerial vehicles. The challenges of drone deployment must be addressed. But the bill Ms. Nielsen cited vests too much power in a federal agency and provides too few safeguards for Americans.
Marc Rotenberg, Washington
The writer is president of the
Electronic Privacy Information Center.