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Justice Department revamps policy on drone use for investigations, search and rescue

The new policy promotes "responsible, appropriate and effective" use of drones.

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The updated policy turns and eye toward cybersecurity.

Kittikorn Nimitpara/ Getty Images

The Justice Department on Wednesday released an updated policy on the use of drones for investigations and other activities. The updated policy on the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) lays out a framework for federal law enforcement to "safely and responsibly" use drones for things like crime scene investigations, search and rescue, and security, the DOJ said, and acts as a model for state and local authorities

Part of the updated UAS policy, which replaces a previous one from 2015, are requirements that the DOJ check drones and other UAS technology for cybersecurity risks and guard against "potential threats to the supply chain and DOJ's networks."

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In October, the US Department of the Interior grounded its fleet of more than 800 aerial drones over concerns about Chinese spying and cyberattacks. The fleet will remain grounded until a full review is completed.

The UAS policy also outlines how law enforcement should balance the use of drones with privacy and civil liberties. It also places limits on data retention. The DOJ said generally data collected from drones that contains personally identifiable information can not be kept for more than 180 days.