Drone surveillance: the CNIL sanctions the Ministry of the Interior

A ‘come home! Came from the air, which shouldn’t have existed. On January 12, the Cnil sanctioned the Ministry of the Interior, and let it be known this Thursday, for using surveillance drones during the spring containment.

“At the end of a control procedure initiated in May 2020, the restricted formation, body of the CNIL responsible for pronouncing the sanctions, called to order the Ministry of the Interior for having carried out drone flights equipped with cameras outside of any legal framework ”, writes the National Commission for Computing and Freedoms in a press release to“ make public ”its decision.

Last spring, in Melun (Seine-et-Marne), in Creil et Beauvais (Oise), or in Lyon (Rhône), the national police had used drones to spy on the streets and to verbalize the disrespectful of the confinement while respecting it. – even the distances. “The use of such drones, appearing to her likely to involve the processing of personal data, the president of the CNIL sent a letter to the Ministry of the Interior on April 23, 2020 to obtain details on these devices and their characteristics. », She specifies.

Identifiable people filmed

A month and a half later, the control body sent questionnaires to the Ministry of the Interior, the Paris police headquarters, a police station and a gendarmerie group. “In response, the ministry indicated using drones equipped with cameras, in particular to verify compliance with containment measures, for the surveillance of demonstrations, for judicial police missions (such as the recognition of a place before an arrest or the surveillance of drug trafficking), or even for the surveillance of urban rodeos ”.

In July, in the premises of the police headquarters, members of the Cnil witnessed a test flight of one of the drones. They found that the people filmed were identifiable. But no legal basis authorizes this, nor the processing of the data collected.

“To date, no text authorizes the Ministry of the Interior to use drones equipped with cameras capturing images on which people are identifiable. Likewise, although it is mandatory, no impact assessment has been communicated to the CNIL concerning the use of these drones. The public was also not informed of the use of drones as it should have been, ”notes the independent authority.

And if the Ministry of the Interior has developed a program to blur people, it only intervened in August, notes the Cnil, and can only be done after the fact, once the images have been collected and processed. The Ministry of the Interior also has the ability to disable blurring.

What about the army?

This decision is integrated with those of the Council of State rendered earlier. In May, the Council of State demanded that the state stop using drones, especially in Paris, to ensure the proper application of the rules of deconfinement. And on December 22, the highest administrative court in French law banned the Paris police prefect from using these flying devices to monitor demonstrations on public roads.

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The sanction of the CNIL is more general, and concerns the very principle of drone surveillance without a legislative framework. “The procedure initiated by the CNIL is, for its part, general and covers all uses of drones by the services of the Ministry of the Interior (police and gendarmerie services, throughout the national territory) for processing aimed at to prevent or detect criminal offenses, to conduct investigations and prosecute their perpetrators, or for the purpose of protecting against threats to public security, ”therefore specifies the Commission, anxious to ensure that its injunction is respected.

Will it be the same for the army? On Tuesday, the General Directorate of Armaments (DGA) placed a first order for microdrones from the French company Parrot, for military reconnaissance and intelligence missions, according to a press release from the Ministry of the Armed Forces. 300 devices are to be delivered from June and for five years. 60% are intended for the Army, 28% for the French Navy and 12% for the Air and Space Army.

VIDEO. Containment: drones support the police on the ground

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