Court rules that Paris police cannot use drones to enforce lockdown

France's highest administrative court ruled on Monday that Paris authorities could no longer use aerial drones to track people flouting social-distancing rules in the coronavirus fight, handing a victory to rights groups who warned of a threat to personal privacy.

Court rules that Paris police cannot use drones to enforce lockdown
Photo: AFP

The devices have been deployed in dozens of cities around the world to ensure lockdowns to contain the outbreak are being respected, raising worries that officials were gaining unprecedented surveillance powers during the crisis.

Two French plaintiffs, the Human Rights League and the digital advocacy group Quadrature du Net, filed a case against the Paris drone flights with the State Council this month.

Citing a Senate report, they said police had carried out 251 surveillance flights nationwide between March 24th and April 24th, during France's strict lockdown.

Police patrols were out in Paris this weekend dispersing large groups. Photo: AFP

Paris police and interior ministry officials said they were not trying to identify people but only watch for any illicit gatherings so they would know where to send patrols.

But in its ruling, the State Council said that since the drones' cameras could let police identify individuals on the ground, “there are risks they could be used contrary to personal data protection rules.”

In order to use them, the government would need to issue a decree setting out conditions of their use and secure approval from the national CNIL data privacy watchdog, the council said.

Alternatively, authorities would have to equip the drones with technology that makes it impossible to identify people being filmed.

The ruling could lead to challenges against drone use in Marseille, Nice and other French cities as the country begins to lift its coronavirus lockdowns.

“There's no reason to believe this decision should not be applied across all French territory,” Patrice Spinosi, a lawyer for the Human Rights League, told AFP.

Member comments

  1. Drones? That’s nothing…. on the last national holiday, here in la Vienne, the gendarmes used their helicopter to check if there were any illicit barbecues going on…they circled our village twice….!

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Paris police warn tourists about ‘petition’ scam

Paris police have issued a warning to tourists to beware of scams targeting visitors that involve false petitions and donation drives.

Paris police warn tourists about 'petition' scam

The police préfecture in Paris has released an announcement warning tourists about a scam that might be used to target them especially. 

The scam involves young boys and girls asking people to sign their petitions and requesting that they give a donation. In reality, many people – especially tourists or those unfamiliar with the local area – find themselves giving their money away to a false organisation.

In other cases, the petition acts as a distraction while pickpockets target the visitors.

Frequently, these scams involve the young people feigning deafness or the inability to speak, and pretending to collect funds on behalf of NGO for the hard of hearing. 

The scam is just one of a number that criminals use to prey on tourists, and visitors return to Paris after a two-year break, police are warning people to be vigilant – especially in tourist hotspots such as Montmartre and the Eiffel Tower area or in transport interchanges such as Gare du Nord.

READ MORE: Warning: 6 of the most common scams in France to watch out for

For more advice on how to stay safe in Paris as a tourist, you can read the police “Guide for Staying Safe in Paris