Alphabet's Wing argues new US drone rules will hurt privacy

Jon Fingas
·Associate Editor
·1 min read

Alphabet’s Wing is less than thrilled with the FAA’s new rules for drone ‘license plates,' and it’s pushing for significant changes. Reuters and The Verge report that the drone delivery company has attacked the rules for remote IDs, warning that they might have “unintended consequences” for privacy.

Wing argued that the requirement to use locally broadcast remote IDs made it possible to infer “sensitive information” about drone flights and their users, such as where people live or pick up their packages. Internet-based network remote IDs would protect against this kind of privacy intrusion, the company said, claiming that Americans wouldn’t accept that potential spying on their “deliveries or taxi trips.”

The firm also contended that broadcast IDs made it harder to create large-scale drone traffic control systems. Traffic management will be vital to a drone industry that could use network ID as a “key building block,” Wing said.

Wing maintained that the FAA’s rules needed to “continue to evolve” to accommodate this, although it stopped short of pursuing official action. The agency has stressed that the ID system was an “initial framework,” and that drone makers have 18 months to develop their ID technology and seek approval.

The reality, as The Verge noted, is more complicated. The FAA switched its strategy from network IDs to remote ones due to a number of potential problems, including unreliable cellular coverage and the possibility that data breaches at third-party brokers could ground drones and compromise privacy. That doesn’t negate the problems with broadcast IDs, but it does suggest that neither current option is ideal.