At the beginning of next week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is set to launch an online registry that centralizes the personal data of drone owners.
According to an emailed answer a Forbes reporter received from the aircraft regulator, the personal data may become publicly available at a later date. This means that details such as the name and address of an unmanned aerial vehicle owner could be easily discovered.
John Goglia from Forbes kept a close tab on how the drone regulations evolved, but his focus on the subject increased after the FAQ concerning registration became public.
There were two statements that posed concern due to their contradictory nature. One is from the Department of Transportation, which says that all the information on registered aircraft owners should be public. The other, from the FAA, states that only the agency and a contractor can get the names and addresses of drone owners.
Goglia emailed the FAA to settle the matter, and the administration replied with an interesting response.
"Until the drone registry system is modified, the FAA will not release names and address," a FAA spokesperson wrote. For owners of UAVs who opened champagne bottles, read on.
"When the drone registry system is modified to permit public searches of registration numbers, names and addresses will be revealed through those searches," the FAA's answer read.
This means that drone owners who register into FAA's database will have their names, addresses and other info publicly available over the Internet. In case that the idea of general surveillance is not enough of a deterrent, you should know that there are quite a few minors who own UAVs. Their data will be online, just as everybody else's.
The perils of having a public database of drone owners lay not just in the indiscretion realm, but in the increased possibility of vigilante behaviors, should an unfortunate accident happen.
There are some who try to steer the measure of the FAA in a different direction, however. The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) makes a purpose out of stopping the registry altogether, and declared that it was looking for legal ways to do so.
If you want to help their effort, all you need to do is delay the registration of your drone until the legal matter of data privacy gets a resolve.
"As we proceed with this process, we suggest AMA members hold off on registering their model aircraft with the FAA until advised by the AMA or until Feb. 19," the AMA wrote in a blog post.