Privacy For Me, Not Thee


Back in the late 1990s, the FAA began making its aircraft situation display to industry (ASDI) data available to the public. This is the near-real-time data stream of aircraft position and identification data used by applications like Flight Explorer and Web sites such as to facilitate flight tracking. The ASDI data


includes all IFR flights along with certain VFR operations.

Shortly after the public had access, many operators approached the FAA asking if its release of the data stream could be reversed or, failing that, would the FAA agree to block certain aircraft from it. The operators reasoning was there are any number of legitimate personal and commercial privacy reasons-not to mention passenger security-for the movements of certain aircraft to not appear in the data.

The FAA agreed to a program allowing flights to be blocked and unblocked, and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) today administers it at no cost to operators. (Full disclosure: My airplanes N-number is blocked from the public ASDI data stream through NBAAs program.)

In early March, however, the FAA published a proposed rule advising the public it intends to eliminate ASDI blocking. The agencys proposal would require a “valid security concern” before any flight would be blocked. The FAA would determine the concerns validity. Lacking it, both real-time and historical flight information would be publicly available.

Many operators are opposed to the FAAs proposal. They argue government has an obligation to protect personal and corporate privacy, not compromise it, and that the “valid security concern” is arbitrary and would require a new bureaucracy to administer. They say the FAA has not identified a legitimate public policy reason for the proposed change, although one allowing the blocking was articulated more than a decade ago. They add that the FAA is overlooking legitimate privacy concerns corporations and individuals like me may have.

Its important to note many military and government flights are automatically blocked from ASDI data. I find it quite interesting the government believes its operational privacy is more important than mine.

Comments on the FAAs proposal to make it much more difficult for an operator to block an aircrafts ASDI data are due by April 4, 2011. Whether you agree with me or not, see NBAAs Web site,, for additional details.

-Jeb Burnside


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