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Wednesday, February 03, 2016

If You Registered Your Drone with the FAA, Kiss Your Privacy Goodbye

[UPDATED] If You Registered Your Drone with the FAA, Kiss Your Privacy Goodbye
Whoops! The mandatory unmanned aerial vehicle database is public and searchable.

Katherine Mangu-Ward|Feb. 3, 2016 2:28 pm

docpop / photo on flickr

[UPDATE: CEI policy analyst and drone nerd Marc Scribner writes to note that while there are some personal drones listed in the public database, that list is of people who registered their drones under a 2012 rule governing commercial drones. Registrants under the December rules are not in there. At least not yet...]

Are you a law-abiding drone owner who registered your unmanned aerial vehicle with the federal government? Congratulations! Total strangers can now find your name, address, and lots of stuff about your fun toy in a public, searchable database!

Late last year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that virtually everyone who owns a drone (a drone's a drone, no matter how small, it seems) would have to register their flying computers for $5 a pop with the federal government. The penalty for failing to register: civil fines of up to $27,500 and criminal penalties of up to $250,000 and imprisonment for three years.

Reason's Scott Shackford has written about the failure of the FAA to actually convince most people to register theirdrones.

And thank goodness for that incompetence, since it will offset this latest revelation of incompetence: The 300,000 entries in the federal UAV registry are public, searchable, and downloadable, despite claims by the feds to the contrary, Engadget reports.

Go ahead, search vehicle registrations in your neighborhood right here on this handy official webpage!

This registry includes private planes as well, but scan for "UAVs under 55 lbs" to see drones that have been registered under the new law.

What's more, as the think tank Heritage notes in a report released yesterday, the FAA registry fails to accomplish its stated goals of improving safety, providing accountability, and offering education to drone owners.

"It is clear that this regulatory response was rushed and arbitrary," conclude authors Jason Snead and John-Michael Seibler, "but there is also a pernicious side effect to this purposeless regulation: Otherwise innocent people are now exposed to criminal liability for no valid purpose."

Add to that list that innocent people have now had their privacy undermined as well.

Katherine Mangu-Ward is managing editor of Reason.

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