One of the lasting societal effects of the coronavirus outbreak will be the government’s use of drones and video technology to essentially spy on its populace, privacy advocates have warned.
One New Jersey’s town use of drones may prove to be a case in point.
The New York Post reported earlier this month that the town of Elizabeth is using a fleet of drones to address large groups of people disobeying social-distancing orders to help contain the coronavirus.
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“These drones will be around the city with an automated message from the Mayor telling you to STOP gathering, disperse and go home,” Elizabeth police announced on Facebook, according to the paper. “Summonses HAVE AND WILL CONTINUE to be issued to those found in violation. Fines are up to $1,000. You have been advised.
Drones have been deployed by cities in states like Florida and California. Drones currently being used can provide city officials with a bird’s-eye view of social gatherings. Their use have been met with resistance, including one Connecticut town that forced a police department to shelve the program.
Similar drones have been used in China, France and Taiwan.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., told the “Todd Starnes Radio Show” Monday that her office has received calls voicing concerns about using technology to track unaware residents and she said she has “enormous” concerns about their use.
Business Insider reported that advancements are being made in drone technology that will give them the ability to spot someone in a crowd who may have the coronavirus. These so-called “Pandemic drones” could use “computer vision systems to monitor temperatures and heart and respiratory rates of people from above and single out people sneezing or coughing.”
“We had imagined the technology being used in a future relief expedition to some far-away place,” Dr. Javann Chahl, chair at the University of South Australia. “Now, shockingly, we see a need for its use in our everyday lives immediately.”
His school is teaming up with the Australian Department of Defense and a Canadian drone company called Draganfly to produce these drones.
Thomas Gaulkin penned a column in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist, raising questions about the drone use during the pandemic.
He wrote, “Under normal circumstances, many Americans—who have an even stronger constitutional allergy to government surveillance than the British—would likely be outraged to see creepy flying police robots following them around outside and worry about what they might be used for after the COVID-19 emergency is over.”