The FAA has developed a plan to allow aircraft owners who have equipped with ADS-B to opt out of real-time flight tracking.
While ADS-B Out will be required for all aircraft operating in most U.S. airspace starting Jan. 1, 2020, the mandate has caused some aircraft owners to worry about their aircraft data — especially location — being broadcast over the Internet.
In a move to ensure operator security and privacy, the FAA will establish new terms-of-service agreements with aircraft tracking service providers that will limit the sharing of aircraft data, if aircraft owners want to opt out from having their flight information broadcast over the Internet. The new terms of service are expected to go into effect by year’s end.
Under Phase 1 of the “Privacy ICAO Address (PIA) Program,” which is expected to be in place by Jan.1, 2020, the FAA will set up a web portal to accept requests from aircraft owners who wish to block real-time ADS-B position and identification information for their aircraft. These owners will be issued an alternative, temporary International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aircraft address, which will not be connected to their aircraft information in the FAA Aircraft Registry.
In Phase 2, which is expected to start in mid-2020, the PIA program will be transitioned to third-party service providers. Only organizations vetted by the FAA, such as law enforcement, will be able to reverse-look-up the true identity of an aircraft.
According to Ed Bolen, president and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association, the lack of a privacy solution “has been a disincentive for some operators to equip with ADS-B. No one should have to surrender their privacy and security just because they board an airplane.”
He notes that aircraft owners are concerned because ADS-B Out transponders — used to broadcast aircraft identification, position, altitude and velocity to other aircraft, as well as to air traffic control (ATC) – include aircraft data linked to the aircraft registry. Anyone using inexpensive, commercially available radios can capture these wireless ATC communications, while flight-tracking websites use this data to publicly disseminate information on aircraft movements.
Some in the aviation industry worry that “bad actors could use this information to track government and business leaders and commit acts of corporate espionage, extortion, or terrorism,” he noted.
Previously, aircraft owners who wanted to block the display of their aircraft data could submit a Block Aircraft Registry Request (BARR). That program has been renamed the Limiting Aircraft Data Displayed (LADD) program.
Companies that track aircraft must now:
- Demonstrate their ability to block display of aircraft data from their public display systems
- Block from public display aircraft registration numbers, call signs or flight numbers included on the FAA-provided LADD (block) list
- Not display historical data for any aircraft registration or call sign while the aircraft is included in the LADD list
If the FAA determines that a vendor has willfully violated these terms of service, the agency may suspend or stop providing data to the vendor.
Aircraft owners who do not wish to have their aircraft data shared can submit LADD requests via a dedicated web page. That page also has information if you’d rather email the FAA or mail the request to the FAA.
Owners can request “FAA source blocking,” in which aircraft data is limited to FAA use only, or “subscriber blocking,” in which flight data is only made available to select vendors.
The LADD program was developed in response to FAA reauthorization legislation language that calls upon the agency to update its data policies to ensure aircraft owners’ right to privacy when using the ATC system.