The CNIL pins the use of drones with cameras by the police

A national police drone (illustrative image). – GERARD JULIEN / AFP

The police forces must cease “without delay” any flight of drone equipped with cameras until a normative framework is put in place, declared the Cnil, the gendarme of personal data, this Thursday in a press release.

The Council of State, the highest administrative court, had already ordered in December to cease the use of drones to monitor demonstrations and recommended that a legal framework be developed for the use of these devices. This time, at the end of a control procedure initiated in May 2020, the restricted formation of the CNIL, which cannot pronounce fines against the State, “reminded the ministry of the Interior for having carried out the flights of drones equipped with cameras outside any legal framework ”.

Drones authorized by the “global security” law

The commission “thus asks the ministry to cease any drone flight until a normative framework authorizes such processing of personal data or until a technical system preventing any identification of persons is implemented”. In a press release, the Ministry of the Interior “takes note of this decision, the terms of which it will respect”.

He also stresses that article 22 of the text on “global security”, which will be examined by the Senate in March, provides for such a device. This text provides for authorizing the use of drones during demonstrations “when the circumstances give rise to serious disturbances to public order” and has been the subject of strong criticism from associations for the defense of freedoms.

Unnecessary blurring

The ministry more generally uses this type of drones to “verify compliance with containment measures, for the surveillance of demonstrations, for judicial police missions or for the surveillance of urban rodeos”.

During an inspection, the CNIL found that the people filmed were likely to be identified, which, under the Data Protection Act, must be provided for by a legislative or regulatory text and require an impact study.

“The public was also not informed about the use of drones as it should have been”, added the commission, and the mechanism of blurring of the faces put in place in a second step “does not necessarily prevent the identification of persons as soon as the services of the Ministry of the Interior are able to deactivate (them) ”.

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