Experts address information privacy concerns related to unmanned aircraft systems

NORMAN, Okla., 27 March 2013. The Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Summit in Norman, Oklahoma, closed with a panel of experts from the University of Oklahoma discussing UAS privacy and social implications.

Information privacy is the ability to control what info about you is conveyed to others and for what purpose, describes one UAS expert.

Years ago, in the area of nuclear energy, social perception drove the application of technologies; UAS will have much the same fate, predicts Professor Hank Jenkins-Smith, a professor of political science and associate director for the Center for Risk, Crisis & Resilience at the University of Oklahoma. “The current online debate is focused on privacy and the role of government,” he says. Conversations center on risks to privacy and physical risks.

“UAV use and regulation is a contested policy domain. Currently, it’s a race between public perceptions of threat and the promise of benefits,” Jenkins-Smith explains.

The evolving issues include: societal benefits such as economic development, emergency management and response, and resource management; privacy and domestic threats, such as the fear of government overreach; perceived risks such as falling drones, drones colliding with aircraft, and disruptions of wildlife and lost wilderness; and acceptable/legal responses to perceived threats.

“Public discussion, ethical or not, in all its many modern forms, is a powerful force that needs careful attention, analysis, and response. This matters for the future of drone technology development,” notes Professor Edward Sankowski, a professor of philosophy and associate dean, College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oklahoma.  

More information about Oklahoma and its roughly 1200 aerospace and aviation companies, as well as the UAS graduate degree option (Masters and PhD), contact the Oklahoma Department of Commerce (

UAV image courtesy Shutterstock.

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