FAA finalizes aircraft privacy policy

September 4, 2013

The FAA has finalized a privacy policy allowing aircraft owners and operators to opt out of public dissemination of flight tracking data. The policy was mandated by Congress after the aviation agency imposed tougher requirements in 2011 for restricting aircraft registration data used by a variety of third-party flight tracking services, prompting protest from the aviation community.

AOPA joined National Business Aviation Association officials in protesting the agency’s 2011 decision to require owners or operators to provide justification to block the release of near-real-time flight tracking data (based on aircraft registration and radar data) that allowed virtually anyone with a computer to follow an aircraft’s travels.

Congress responded quickly, requiring the FAA to establish policy and procedures that allow aircraft operators to block the release of aircraft data to third parties, or allow it with limits, without requiring justification based on security concerns. The final policy is essentially unchanged from the policy enacted in May 2012, and takes effect Sept. 20.

The FAA provides radar tracking data to vendors through a program known as Aircraft Situation Display to Industry, and owners or operators can request that aircraft data be blocked by contacting the FAA via email or by regular mail to FAA ASDI Blocking Request, ATO System Operation Services, AJR-0, Wilbur Wright Building, Room 3E1500; 600 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, D.C. 20597. The FAA updates its list of blocked aircraft registration numbers on the first Thursday of each month. Owners or operators requesting ASDI blocking should provide their name, contact number, a statement certifying they are a legally authorized representative of the owner or operator, the registration number to be blocked (or unblocked), and specify whether they request blocking at the FAA or industry level. Owners or operators opting to block data at the industry level can contract with ASDI data subscribers individually to authorize limited dissemination of aircraft data.

ASDI subscribers who fail to honor a request to block aircraft data risk losing all access to FAA tracking data.