Two weekends ago at the V Festival, revellers were surprised to see a remote-controlled surveillance drone flying and filming overhead. Little to nothing was known beforehand about the drone’s use, and news reports after the fact shed little light on why or how its use was approved.
I put in a Freedom of Information Act request and discovered that the drone was part of a sales demo by a company called MW Power at the invitation of Staffordshire Police. What about the legality of the drone, I asked the police? They wondered why I was asking. Was I a competitor? Did I want to sell them a drone? It was unbelievable to the police, I suppose, that a citizen might be concerned about her privacy.
MW Power told me that more than half of Britain’s police forces have asked for a drone demo and many are finalising packages to buy the £30,000 kit – this without any public discussion about whether it is a useful way of combating crime.
Overarching surveillance infringes our privacy. So, for such an infringement to be justified, the police ought to have evidence to show its effectiveness. Instead, the police grab at invasive technologies without regard to the cost in terms of individual privacy or community trust. The police claim that drones will prevent thefts, but they can’t provide any proof. Shouldn’t such proof exist before the police throw taxpayer’s money into the sky?