Police drones on public beaches are a gross privacy violation

Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash

Privacy experts have hit out at reports that Victorian Police plan to operate camera surveillance drones on public beaches over the upcoming holiday period.

“This is a gross violation of privacy for anyone visiting a Victorian beach over the summer break,” said Digital Rights Watch chair Tim Singleton Norton.

The 2017 Guidelines to Surveillance and Privacy in the Victorian Public Sector outline that any use of surveillance technology must be ‘necessary, proportionate and for a legitimate purpose related to the activities of the organisation.’

“Is it necessary and proportionate for police officers to constantly surveil large numbers of the public, often in a state of undress? For members of the public to have their bodies subjected to surveillance in these circumstances is invasive and often deeply uncomfortable.”

“Imagine, you are on the beach in your togs and at any moment there could be a police officer – male or female – observing you from the sky? It’s not just a dampener on summer relaxation time, it’s downright creepy.”

“Our beaches are public areas that everyone should feel free to use without the scrutiny of someone watching from a control room far afield.”

“The public have a right to know much more about how these drones are operating before they should be taking to the skies; the circumstances of their use, the validity of any possible threat and who will monitor their use and storage of footage.”

“Of course we want our law enforcement officers to have all the necessary means to do their job of protecting the public, but this must come hand in hand with appropriate oversights and provision of more straightforward solutions like providing secure storage options for beachgoers to prevent theft,” said Mr Singleton Norton.