back to article Who will banish spy-cam drones from US skies? The FAA doesn't want to do it. EPIC disagrees

Privacy advocates are pressing the US Federal Aviation Administration to ground creepy peeping-tom drones. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a legal challenge [PDF] on Tuesday over what it says is a lack of privacy protections in the FAA's latest private drone rules. The regulator has started enforcing …

  1. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Aren't the US military about to flog their old drones (probably on eBay)? Methinks the FAA better get involved before the paps start flying Predators around Hollywood!!

    1. Bandikoto

      They're going to surplus the Predators and sell them to police departments. Details here.

      1. Mephistro Silver badge
        Trollface

        "...sell them to police departments."

        American citizens will be safer if the drones are sold in eBay!

  2. Magani
    Black Helicopters

    It's the act, not the platform

    If you are taking photos from a helicopter or fixed wing aircraft, the CAA, FAA, ASA, and all the other aviation-based TLAs have no jurisdiction over that, so why are drones any different? It's the act of taking the photo that's the issue here, not the platform on which the camera is mounted. The same situation arises if someone has a telephoto lens from a neighbouring apartment building or on a hillside.

    Shirley, there are rules covering privacy already.

    1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: It's the act, not the platform

      Exactly. You don't expect the DVLA (Vehicle licensing authority in the USA) to prosecute car drivers for other misbehavior, such as shagging in their car or following somebody around and photographing them - that is for the police to prosecute if the driver is breaking a privacy or public behavior law.

      Same goes for aircraft of all types: the CAA and FDA are responsible for licensing and aircraft safety issues, not for prosecuting other types of misbehavior. For example, in the UK if you fly an 8 kg drone within 50m of a spectator that would be a matter for the CAA because doing it breaks ANO rules, but using the same drone with a telephoto lens to photograph the same person inside his house from 100m away is a privacy issue that would be handled by the police, not the CAA, because at that distance you're outside the ANO limits for flying close to people or buildings.

      1. JimC

        You folks do realise what this means...

        Its a government agency refusing to extend its mission and stick its fingers in more pies... How often does that happen?

        Admittedly its probably because they recognise that taking on drone regulation would be not so much a can of worms as a whole tanker load of vicious flesh eating worms with razor sharp teeth but still...

  3. jake Silver badge

    12 guage Browning, goose loads, modified choke.

    Works for me. I've bagged four of the bastards. Cops have been called. I'm over 1500 yards from the nearest occupied dwelling not owned by myself, and outside city limits, so I'm allowed to discharge firearms. I'm also allowed to protect my privacy. The law can't find anything to charge me with, so I'll continue shooting them down.

    Oddly enough, if they were to ask nicely, I'd allow them onto the property ;-)

  4. DanceMan

    Craignez l'aigle

    Pretty sure it was on France 24 I saw this yesterday. They are training a very large species of eagle to attack drones. I was half-watching while on the computer so missed the specific intended usage but think it was for large events such as around stadiums -- can't remember airports being mentioned but that would seem to be another. The training involved edible drone shapes to condition them to see drones as food. Beware the (reaper) raptor!

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Craignez l'aigle

      You don;t train raptors to take "food". You train raptors to take "prey". There is a subtle, but vital, difference ... Food only comes from the hand of the trainer, otherwise the bird returns to the wild,

    2. Magani
      Linux

      Re: Craignez l'aigle

      They are training a very large species of eagle to attack drones.

      Sticking one's finger into a rotating propeller or rotor can be a little painful, especially if it's running flat out.

      How long will it take a raptor to figure out that sticking either a beak (near its eyes) or a talon (near its feet) into the same prop/rotor isn't a way to lasting happiness, despite what its handler wants it to do.

      Fortunately, penguins are never going to intercept drones.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Craignez l'aigle

        Interesting. We have some bald eagles nesting nearby, and a plethora of hawks. Perhaps that explains the near-zero local drone population.

  5. jonnycando
    FAIL

    If some agency does not cough up necessary regulations....

    I shall reserve the right to shoot down any drone flying about my property.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: If some agency does not cough up necessary regulations....

      Most places have laws against shooting stuff down, or shooting in city limits period, but since drones communicate using public airwaves that you can use too, there's nothing stopping you from jamming the frequency it is using so the operator loses control and it crashes.

      And while the drone owner will claim he wasn't spying on your daughter undressing because you can't prove it, you can claim you didn't jam his drone and cause it to crash because he can't prove it.

      Or better yet, since most drones probably have little or no security, a device that could recognize the signals being broadcast to/from the drone to determine its type and allow you to simply take it over - since you'd be closer to it than its operator - would allow you to crash it into your pool to make sure it never flies again, or into the brand new car of the lawyer down the street who will happily sue the drone owner for enough money he gives up his peeping tom hobby.

      1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme Silver badge

        Re: @DougS

        "...but since drones communicate using public airwaves that you can use too, there's nothing stopping you from jamming the frequency it is using so the operator loses control and it crashes."

        Actually, that isn't true - at least not in the US. The FCC has some pretty clear prohibitions on jamming. For example this and also this so, jamming RF is just as illegal as the snooping you are trying to stop.

      2. MSmith

        Re: If some agency does not cough up necessary regulations....

        Sorry, that would violate FCC regulations. You are interfering with another device on purpose. If they charge that you interred with the drone, searched your house, and found a device capable of it, you could be in significant trouble.

        I think what they want the FAA to do is declare that you can't operate drones above other people's property (up to a certain altitude) without those people's permission. That is well within the FAA's scope of activities. It would also let me shoot them down, since I believe the FAA has stated that it is against the law to shoot at an aircraft even if it is on your property and snooping on you. I see a new market in short-range anti-drone weapons (potato cannons modified to shoot hooked nets?).

        1. earl grey Silver badge
          Black Helicopters

          Re: If some agency does not cough up necessary regulations....

          "searched your house"

          Unlikely unless legal probable cause for a search warrant and even then, if your "controller" is for your own unit they would never be able to prove you interfered with another unit... no case... no probable cause...no search

          Helicopters because....

  6. not.known@this.address Bronze badge
    Black Helicopters

    Exciting new business opportunity!

    Anti-drone drones - the Robot Wars of the Skies!

    There used to be a sport where two or more people would stand shoulder-to-shoulder with model "aircraft" - normally little more than a plank with an engine and a small fin - at the end of (fairly long) bits of line and with ribbons dangling off the back; the winner was the one who managed to chop off his opponent(s)'s ribbon.

    So I propose a drone with a very short range and a couple of metres of thick fishing line in an easy-release mount to fly above the spying drone and dangle the fishing line into the rotors - the short range means it can only be used to protect a relatively small area (so no 'fishing expeditions') and the easy-break mount means you only need to replace the fishing line if some snooping... [i]person[/i] flies over your property...

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Exciting new business opportunity!

      not.known@this.adress:

      There used to be a sport where two or more people would stand shoulder-to-shoulder with model "aircraft" - normally little more than a plank with an engine and a small fin - at the end of (fairly long) bits of line and with ribbons dangling off the back; the winner was the one who managed to chop off his opponent(s)'s ribbon.

      Still exists actually. It's FAI model flying class F2D (also known as Control Line Combat) and there is still a crowd of people involved in the sport. Though like a lot of model aircraft classes it seems to be greying out and dying out as other, "more exiting" forms of model flying become cheaper and easier to enter. See for instance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVcW8DZH-94

      1. W4YBO

        Re: Exciting new business opportunity!

        Great video. Thanks for the link! I haven't watched Control Line Combat in forty years. Judging from the video, my eyes are no longer speedy enough to keep up.

    2. Michael Thibault

      Re: Exciting new business opportunity!

      "'and the easy-break mount means you only need to replace the fishing line if some snooping... [i]person[/i] flies over your property..."

      The 'finder's fees' should keep you out of the red, I would think.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    EPIC

    Look at this. https://epic.org/news/2016/default.html

    EPIC (EFF's D.C. spinoff) been harping on this issue for some time, raising awareness, suing the FAA, etc. But you'd never know it. They're basically saying the right things but politicians aren't listening to them. Weak-ass lobbying.

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: EPIC

      They're not saying the right things because the FAA is not the correct agency to be complaining to. As said before this privacy problem falls outside FAA jurisdiction and policy. As it should.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    is this another "too many cooks" situation?

    seems for every issue there are a dozen organizations "raising awareness" and making careers out of needing donations.

    How many separately funded, separately managed organizations do we need for electronic privacy? Make more sense to send more to the EFF than to split the effort across two organizations vying for relevancy.

    Its like having HUNDREDS of HIV/AIDS advocacy groups all working to "raise awareness". How many dozen separate youtube videos per week makes a difference that one or two from a small handful of well funded well organized organizations could do?

    More focus on "action" and less on "awareness" for ALL social issues would be nice too. Time to get to the dirty, hard, "boring", long term work for positive change, and less fun time on social media campaigns and the occasional showy protest.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020