October 16, 2021

Security and privacy concerns may pose a threat to the remote sensing sector, according to a lawmaker

2 min read

Last year, satellite imaging companies applauded new Commerce Department regulations that simplified the licensing system for private companies. The new rules were designed to help American remote sensing firms compete in the burgeoning global market for space-centered data. However, as the industry develops more advanced devices, U.S. representative Don Beyer (D-Va.), who serves as the chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology subcommittee in charge of the space and aeronautics, believes it might be time to consider new regulations to ensure that inventions do not violate on privacy or threaten national security.

Many businesses will benefit from the recent rule change, which decreases regulatory burdens while placing limits on businesses that have completely new functionality that is not available on the open market. Apart from having a “novel capacity,” Beyer stated at a Politico conference on March 17 that there are possibly other reasons to limit remote sensing licensing. According to Beyer, there are “control and resolution concerns” which could have an effect on national defense and, in particular, privacy, and “where Congress will have to find a balance.”

Congress will have to consider the fact that the United States government will be utilizing more commercial geospatial intelligence services, according to Beyer. “Finding the best position to regulate would be a problem for us. On the one side, you don’t want to regulate heavily, but there will be national security and privacy issues brought up.” “Years of rulemaking” may be ahead of us, according to Beyer. However, he does not expect any legislative intervention in the immediate future. “I wouldn’t anticipate seeing a variety of proposed laws any time soon in Congress, in which everything happens at a snail’s pace.”

Connection to remote sensing, he said, should be debated “at the arms control level.” A Geneva Convention-style agreement may be one alternative, according to Beyer, “to contribute to an agreement on confidentiality on who can have access to this information and kind of learn how well the data is being used.” When it comes to how machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence are implemented to this data, “it gets pretty scary pretty quickly unless there’s some sort of universal comprehension of how it can be applied,” according to the author.

The utilization of satellite imagery to spies on individuals poses ethical questions, according to Megan Coffer. She works as a research scientist at North Carolina State University’s Center for the Geospatial Analytics. Still, she believes it is not a problem that would affect the industry. She mentioned previous court cases concerning Google Earth or even the aerial imagery, which were found in favor of the remote sensing providers at the Politico session.

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