Faculty Bulletin Board

UCLA expert testifies before Senate committee about drones, privacy

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While drones can potentially be used to gather information in ways that violate privacy, this does not mean that new federal legislation on the use of unmanned aircraft is immediately needed or should be put in place quickly, John Villasenor,  a UCLA professor of public policy, cautioned a U.S. Senate committee Wednesday, March 15.

UCLA
John Villasenor

“Rather, the key question is: Do unmanned aircraft put privacy at risk in ways that fall outside the scope of existing constitutional, statutory and common law privacy protections?” asked Villasenor. “There are good reasons to believe that the answer to that question is no. As a result, I think it is premature to enact broad new federal legislation specifically directed to unmanned aircraft privacy.”

Villasenor, a professor with the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs who also holds UCLA faculty appointments in engineering, management and law, was among witnesses testifying before the full U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, chaired by U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, on issues related to unmanned aircraft in the national airspace system. The witnesses, including the director of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, represented government and industry interests.

While Congress has a vital role in addressing the challenges of emerging technologies, Villasenor urged dialogue among lawmakers, regulators, consumers, the commercial sector and civil liberties groups, so all parties can gain a better understanding of the issues.

Members of the Senate committee were briefed on a wide range of issues that will affect the emerging technology as legislation catches up with innovations to and applications for the hundreds of thousands of unmanned aircraft systems — commonly known as drones — already in in the hands of individuals, commercial interests and government agencies.

To read the complete story and view a video of his testimony, go to this Luskin School of Public Affairs website.

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