Paris Cop Drones Spark Covid-19 Privacy Backlash

May 4, 2020, 2:34 PM

Paris police are under fire from civil liberty groups seeking to ground a squadron of drones enforcing the French capital’s strict Covid-19 lockdown rules.

The Human Rights League and La Quadrature du Net said they filed a complaint with a local court amid concerns that Parisians are being filmed without their knowledge, and with no limits on how long footage can be kept.

“If the police intended to take advantage of the health crisis to test new gadgets, they got things wrong,” the associations said in a statement. “We hope that a legal victory in Paris will have an impact throughout the country.”

The groups said they asked the court to issue an urgent ruling ordering the police chief to stop recording footage with drones and destroy any images already taken.

The duo said police have deployed drones to identify offenders or guide patrols on the ground and by bellowing instructions through loudspeakers.

The Quadrature du Net said the current use of drones might continue even after the coronavirus crisis is over, if no one steps up.

“History shows that measures taken during times of emergency tend to stay in place,” said the association’s lawyer, Alexis Fitzjean.

Police representatives didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Virus Apps Must Keep Big Brother at Bay, EU Privacy Chiefs Warn

The case follows widespread outrage in the U.K. after a local police force deployed drones to shame visitors to a popular national park. While European nations have won plaudits for abiding by lockdown rules, authorities have to comply with some of the world’s toughest privacy rules.

Privacy watchdogs have also weighed in to ensure mobile apps aimed at tracking the spread of the coronavirus don’t unduly breach citizens’ rights.

To contact the reporters on this story:
Gaspard Sebag in Paris at gsebag@bloomberg.net;
Helene Fouquet in Paris at hfouquet1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

Peter Chapman, Giles Turner

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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