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Surveillance concerns as police deploy drones to catch COVID-19 rule-breakers

Drones are set to be deployed in parts of Melbourne’s south as police crack down on people breaching COVID-19 restrictions.

Police drones will be used in parks and beaches in the Port Phillip and Stonnington Council areas, in a bid to catch those flouting the rules.

But not everyone thinks they’re a good idea.

Lawyer and chair of Digital Right Watch, Lizzy O’Shea, says she’s concerned about the level of surveillance involved.

“People have a right to be able to go about their lives without constantly being watched by police,” she told Neil Mitchell.

“The use of drones by police is something that you’d expect, I think, somewhere like China and Russia.”

Ms O’Shea says she’s doubtful that police will cease using drones to monitor people once the pandemic is over.

“Often in these moments of crisis we will introduce new forms of technology, new forms of surveillance, and they’re very difficult to dismantle at the end of the crisis,” she said.

“I’m not convinced that once police push to a higher watermark of surveillance that they’ll be prepared to return to levels of pre-pandemic.”

She said there are better ways drones could be used during the pandemic.

“I’d much prefer to see drones doing things like delivering groceries to people who are elderly, who maybe don’t want to go to the supermarket for fear of catching the virus,” Ms O’Shea said.

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