LegalTech Seminar Series CLE Recording: Drones and Privacy - Seeking a Model for Understanding Novel Technologies

LegalTech Seminar Series: Drones and Privacy - Seeking a Model for Understanding Novel Technologies

Featuring: David Sella-Villa, Esq., Assistant General Counsel, South Carolina Department of Administration

Aerial drones are an exciting technology that stirs strong emotions. For both governmental and private purposes, drones equipped with cameras shrink nearly all the barriers that keep the sky the exclusive territory of manned aircraft, birds, and insects. These elevated perspectives offer a unique vantage point that also raises privacy concerns. Understanding the privacy impact of drones requires a multifaceted legal and technological analysis. This analysis can be applied other novel technologies as well.

As a starting point, it is important to understand the features of drones that distinguish them from other similar technologies. Even with these differences, the privacy jurisprudence for aircraft (Ciraolo), helicopters (Florida v. Riley), and imaging devices that look through walls (Kyllo) does little to limit drone operations. In short – drones have a very limited impact on privacy under U.S law.

This conclusion, though, does little to address the psychological impact of drones. Who is flying it? What do are they looking at? Why is the drone there? Can I shoot it down? Pushing past the privacy jurisprudence, some state and local laws have attempted to provide legal answers to these types of questions. By tracking the data that comes from drones – the drone data lifecycle – a fuller picture of the privacy impact of drones emerges. Data, though, tends to inspire more muted emotional responses.

Analyzing the drone data lifecycle reveals that drone data implicates numerous fields of law, including FAA regulations, FCC rules, property rights, land use, federal preemption, evidence, and even social media terms of service. By working through these issues as well, the privacy impact of drones can more fully understood. With this kind of understanding, we can find better ways to manage the use of drones, and by analogy, other novel technologies.

Approved for one (1) CLE credit in South Carolina

David Sella-Villa is an Assistant General Counsel for the South Carolina Department of Administration assigned to technology issues. He works on procurement and policy matters related to privacy, security, service consolidation, and data management. He holds the IAPP’s CIPP/US & CIPP/E privacy certifications and the GIAC’s GLEG data security certification. He is also a member of the SC Interagency Drone Users Consortium.

Prior to joining the Department of Administration, David worked as General Counsel for a private aviation company. He earned his law degree from the College of William & Mary, where he continues to serve as Adjunct Faculty. He also has degrees from the London School of Economics and West Virginia University. His interest in legal issues related to drones blends his current work on privacy & technology with his prior experience in the world of aviation.

Stock number: