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Executive Order on Drone Privacy

As reported in the press, President Obama plans to issue an Executive Order authorizing the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) to coordinate the development of privacy guidelines for commercial drone operations. More specifically, we understand that NTIA would coordinate a “multi-stakeholder process” — a procedure used previously to address privacy issues not being sufficiently addressed elsewhere in the government, including for mobile apps and facial recognition technology.

It is not clear when the Executive Order will be issued. It is also not known whether it will be coordinated with the FAA’s separate development of rules for integrating commercial drone operations into U.S. airspace.

We understand that the NTIA process will be intended to develop an industry code of conduct, rather than binding rules. However, adherence to any resulting code of conduct could be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission under Section 5 of the FTC Act, which permits it to take action against deceptive trade practices.

For this reason, industry stakeholders must approach these processes and any resulting agreements very carefully.

© 2020 Covington & Burling LLPNational Law Review, Volume IV, Number 206


About this Author

Kurt Wimmer, Data privacy and cybersecurity lawyer, Covington

Kurt Wimmer is the U.S. chair of our Data Privacy and Cybersecurity practice, and is past chair of the Privacy and Information Security Committee of the American Bar Association’s Antitrust Section. He is rated in the first tier by Legal 500, designated as a national leader in Chambers USA, and is included in Best Lawyers in America in four areas. Sources for Chambers USA describe him as "a leading person in the field" and "extremely gifted at what he does."

Mr. Wimmer represents major social media companies, global technology...