U.S. Justice Department seeks to curb risks of foreign-made drones

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday said it was revising its drone purchasing policy, saying those who use department funds to buy or operate foreign-made drones must mitigate the security risks and protect people’s privacy.

“We take seriously concerns about the use of foreign-made UAS and the potential for related data compromise,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen in a statement, referring to unmanned aircraft systems, or drones.

The Trump administration has raised concerns about the potential for drones used by U.S. government agencies being compromised by China for spying.

The revised rules do not mention China, but say that the participating jurisdictions in the Office of Justice programs must now certify in writing they can mitigate risks of malware or unauthorized collection of information including data theft or electronic hijacking and can also secure communications and protect the information collected by the drones.

The rules also say that participants in the program must have a “plan to address civil liberties-related complaints regarding use of” the drones.

Drones have been a problem for several U.S. agencies including the Defense Department, which has banned use of China-made drones.

In August, the Pentagon announced that the federal government could purchase drones from five companies including Altavian, Parrot SA, Skydio, Teal and Vantage Robotics.

China’s SZ DJI Technology Co Ltd, the world’s largest commercial drone maker, said in January that there was a lack of credible evidence to support a broad country of origin restriction on drone technology.

Reporting by Susan Heavey, Editing by Franklin Paul and Hugh Lawson