Court in France bans police drones at demonstrations

The use of police drones for Corona compliance and at political rallies in Paris is unlawful. La Quadrature du Net sees the „balance of power“ with police reversing.

The French Supreme Administrative Court has banned the police in Paris from using quadrocopters to monitor demonstrations. Police prefect Didier Lallement is to stop the practice immediately, the court ordered today. It had already imposed a ban on the unmanned surveillance of Corona conditions in May. This ruling has now been extended.

The French government had regulated police drone flights in Article 22 of the „Global Security Law“ recently passed in first reading. It expands the possibilities of law enforcement agencies to use footage filmed in public space. In addition to drones, this also affects helicopters that transmit videos to police situation centres.

Is the „balance of power“ reversing?

The court criticises the fact that the law does not lay down any conditions for the use of drones. But the measure is also criticised in its core, writes the surveillance-critical organisation La Quadrature du Net, which has filed the complaint. According to the court, the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, has not been able to prove that drones are needed to maintain public safety in crowds. However, with regard to the storage and processing of personal data, this is necessary.

Infrastructure to blur the filmings (via La Quadrature du Net).

The police prefecture had previously tried to circumvent the May ban by using a blurring filter. This too was rejected by the Council of State today. The website Mediapart had previously made public that the filter can be used to restore blurred faces.

Hundreds of thousands have demonstrated against police violence and the new security laws in recent weeks. Particularly controversial is the ban in Article 24 of the law on recording and disseminating faces of police officers in action. After the Council of Europe and the United Nations also warned of a violation of press freedom, the Article 24 is to be revised. „The balance of power“ could finally begin to reverse, La Quadrature du Net therefore comments on today’s ruling on Article 22.

Image: La Quadrature du Net.

Autor: Matthias Monroy

Knowledge worker, activist, editor of the German civil rights journal Bürgerrechte & Polizei/CILIP.