New York City‘s police department is reportedly considering the use of “pandemic drone” technology to determine if people are infected with coronavirus, even though a Connecticut town has already scrapped its plan due to privacy concerns.
Westport residents were successful in stymying plans for a drone that could detect a person’s temperature, along with their heart and respiratory rates, from as high as 190 feet in the air, The New York Post reported.
The NYPD reached out to Westport police for contact information regarding Draganfly, the Canadian company that manufactures the drone.
Draganfly and the NYPD are now in “cursory talks,” but the department stated, “there are no plans at this time to purchase this particular product,” according to The Post.
The Connecticut Americans Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a statement regarding the proposed plan from Westport Police in April, calling it an invasion of privacy.
“The Westport Police Department has announced a new drone pilot program which, police say, will be used to ‘monitor’ social distancing and ‘identify’ people’s health symptoms, such as fevers or coughs,” the statement began.
David McGuire, state executive director of the ACLU in Connecticut, cautioning against such programs in the future.
“We shouldn’t write off tools that might help mitigate the problem. But we also must recognize that technology is no magic pill to stemming the pandemic,” McGuire says in the statement. “Towns and the state should be wary of self-interested, privacy-invading companies using COVID-19 as a chance to market their products and create future business opportunities.”
He added, “Any new surveillance measure that isn’t being advocated for by public health professionals and restricted solely for public health use should be promptly rejected, and we are naturally skeptical of towns announcing these kinds of partnerships without information about who is operating the drones, what data they will collect, or how or if that data will be stored, shared, or sold.”