In all the hype and amid the explosion of demand for drones from hobbyists to racers to giants such as Amazon seeking to create package delivery via unmanned aerial vehicles, an overlooked subject is data. What happens to all the information gathered by these high-tech systems?

Raleigh-based PrecisionHawk isn’t overlooking data security and privacy.

At a big White House summit today on the drone phenomenon, PrecisionHawk along with partners Intel and the Future of Privacy Forum unveiled a study about how the data should be handled safely and securely.

In what they describe as “Privacy by Design,” the three spell out examples of what’s being done on the data front as the world rushes to embrace all things autonomous.

“[D]rone operations can result in collection, use, or sharing of personal information, including information about individuals who are not involved in the flights,” the report reads.

“Some consumers have concerns about drone data collection, and policymakers agree that responsible data practices are crucial to building trust in drone services.”

This framework for drone software developrs stresses that “developers should embed privacy into the design and architecture of devices, systems and business practices”

If they do, then “privacy is enabled by default, not ‘bolted on as an add-on, after the fact.'”

Privacy-by-Design stipulates that developers should:

  • ask questions about what data is collected
  • how it is used
  • with whom it is shared
  • how much of that data is retained
  • how data is stored and protected

“In doing so,” the report says, “[developers] consider the benefits and risks of the use of data, and what steps can be taken to mitigate risk.”

The report looks at four key areas for embedding security:

1. Embedding Privacy by Design in Sense and Avoid Solutions

2. Embedding Security by Design

3. Embedding Privacy in Drone Navigation Controls

4. Embedding Privacy in the Design of Video Analytics

In each of the four areas, the report “highlights technologies and practices that help drone operators minimize collection and retention of personal data, obfuscate images of individuals collected from the air, and secure personally identifiable information. Companies are embedding privacy by design in sense and avoid solutions, building in security by design, embedding privacy in navigation controls, and employing anonymous video analytics that safeguard privacy.”

The authors contend that “widespread adoption of these technologies is enabling drones to reduce privacy risks while they tackle important, often life-saving missions.”

Are ALL developers committed to this vision?

As Ronald Reagan said, “Trust but verifiy.”

“We often hear about privacy concerns raised by drone technologies. This report shows how drone solutions can, and are, helping us solve real privacy concerns,” said Diana Marina Cooper, Senior Director of Legal and Policy Affairs for PrecisionHawk, in announcing the report. I hope this report inspires developers of drone technologies to seek out their own ways of building privacy into their products.”

Read the full report at: