While Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) provides clear safety and efficiency benefits to business aviation, there are lingering privacy concerns. With the proliferation of relatively inexpensive ADS-B receivers, your real-time and historical flight information is likely available to anyone at little or no cost. There are several new options available to minimize public access to your ADS-B data, but each one should be evaluated closely to determine which program best fits your needs.
What Can be Done to Limit Public ADS-B Info on Your Jet?
FAA Limiting Aircraft Data Displayed (LADD) Program
Aircraft owners may request that the FAA limits the use of the data it collects on that aircraft, which is similar to the blocking of flight tracking data which was available under previous programs. Under LADD an aircraft owner has two options for blocking:
- FAA Source – Aircraft data is limited to FAA use only, and is not made available to external vendors.
- Subscriber Level – Aircraft data is made available via the FAA data feeds to all vendors that subscribe, but those vendors are bound by service agreements with the FAA to not publicly display information for aircraft on the subscriber level blocked list.
While FAA Source level blocking is the most secure, it does prohibit the owner from using any third party flight tracking system to track their own aircraft. If you need to be able to track your own aircraft, then the Subscriber Level blocking is the only option under LADD that will work. Additionally, you will need to sign up with the flight tracking service you desire to use to gain access to your data. Many flight tracking service providers offer assistance in helping you to sign up for LADD, but you can also submit your own request directly to the FAA. More information on how to request blocking can be found in our article How to Block Your Aircraft Tail Number from Public Tracking.
FAA Privacy ICAO Address (PIA)
There are two main sources of ADS-B data: data collected by the FAA, and data collected by individual and commercial ADS-B receivers. Blocking your data under the FAA LADD program is only a partial solution, as it only addresses data collected by the FAA. To address the second source of ADS-B data the FAA has created the Privacy ICAO Address (PIA) program. Under this program operators are allowed to use alternate, temporary ICAO aircraft codes that are not tied to the aircraft in the FAA Aircraft Registry database. The result is that third parties collecting your ADS-B data will collect flight data that is only tied to the temporary code, and thus will not be able to tie it to your aircraft as easily. More information on how to request blocking can be found in our article How to Block Your Aircraft Tail Number from Public Tracking.
Assessing Data Tied to Your Aircraft Registration Number
The LADD and PIA programs provide go a long way to limiting public access to flight-tracking data, particularly real-time data, but it is impossible to completely prevent public access to this data. Even if your aircraft is enrolled in the PIA program it may still be possible for third parties to tie your ADS-B data to your aircraft by observing activity as your airport, or via other means. It is also important to remember that third parties can seek historical flight data from the FAA under the Freedom of information Act (FOIA). Going a step further to limit the information tied to your registration number, may help prevent a researcher from tying your flight history to the identity of the operator, or the identity of the passengers.
- Careful selection of the registered owner, and contact information for that owner, is one area where privacy can be built in. There are many options including trusts, sole purpose entities, and others, but each option comes with unique FAA and tax consequences that should be considered in light of the operational structure.
- Careful consideration of information that is made public during the purchase of your aircraft is another area on which to focus.
Lori N. McGee is a partner with the law firm of Jetstream Aviation Law and counsels clients on the acquisition, financing, and operation of corporate jets operated under Part 91 and Part 135 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. Jetstream Aviation Law can be found at www.JetstreamLaw.com.