French watchdog condemns police for illegal use of drones to patrol the lockdown By Reuters

By Mathieu Rosemain PARIS (Reuters) – French data privacy regulator CNIL condemned the Interior Ministry for the illegal use of drones to monitor demonstrations and make sure people respected the COVID-19 shutdown. In a decision made public on Thursday, the authority highlighted that the use of such tools by the police at the national level violated the law in the absence of a regulatory framework. The CNIL began investigating the use of camera drones by the police last May. It found that the Interior Ministry had not used at that time mechanisms to blur the faces of people filmed by drones in demonstrations or walking through the streets during the confinement. This was a violation of French data privacy rules, CNIL said, as people could easily be identified in images filmed and later stored by the police. Since then, the Interior Ministry has told the CNIL that fuzzy systems were installed, but the authority said they could be shut down. “This mechanism does not necessarily prevent the identification of persons as long as the services of the Interior Ministry can deactivate the blur,” said the authority. At no time has the public been adequately informed about the use of camera drones by the police, the CNIL said, adding that it had reminded the Interior Ministry that it must obey the law. This comes after another decision by the country’s highest administrative court, which banned the use of camera drones by police in the absence of a proper legal framework. A security bill, which sparked fierce debates in France about press freedom, would substantially increase the legal use of surveillance tools, including drones. The Interior Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

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