As people start wrapping up their holiday shopping, we imagine hordes of drones are still flying off store shelves.
Come the morning of Christmas day, thousands to hundreds of thousands or more drones will be flying either in American living rooms or over neighborhood streets. Then they'll crash.
Hopefully, no one or nothing gets damaged during those maiden Christmas day flights, but should that happen sometime between this Monday and onwards, the government and the people will know the names and addresses of registered drone owners and operators.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is set to launch its online registry and database of drone flyers on Monday. The agency's goal is to collect the personal data of private drone owners and flyers flying in public space.
That's where a sharp point of contention arises between the government, its agencies, and public interest groups. After drone operators submit their names and addresses into this database, who will have access to all that data?
Forbe's John Goglia has even found contradictory statements from both the FAA and the DOT. The FAA has said that they will be the only agency (along with a contractor) to have access to the information collected from its online website. However, the DOT has commented that information gathered about a registered drone's owner will be public record.
Who's telling the truth? Well, both.
"Until the drone registry system is modified, the FAA will not release names and address. When the drone registry system is modified to permit public searches of registration numbers, names and addresses will be revealed through those searches," said the FAA.
Knowing how slowly the government works, it may take a while for this to actually take effect. But when it does, it presents a double-edged sword for the public. When people fly their drones into danger zones (like fires, for example) it hinders authorities from doing their jobs properly to save lives and property. This is one of the many reasons for registering private drones that are flying in public places.
On the other hand, however, it isn't only creepy but rightfully worrisome for such personal data to be on the public record. For example, what similar information about certain kinds of people is freely available to the public? The sex offender registry. Obviously, both groups of people are not the same yet their personal data is treated nearly the same.
Ted Eytan | Flickr