Civil rights groups raise concerns as French police drones roam free during lockdown

By Clément Le Foll and Clément Pouré

Since the start of the coronavirus lockdown on March 17th in France drones have become an increasingly familiar sight above public areas in France. They have been used by the authorities to fly over towns and cites, coastal areas and parks. But no one is sure if these drones are filming people and, if so, whether the images are being stored or cross-checked with police files. As Clément Le Foll and Clément Pouré report, civil liberties groups are increasingly worried about the situation.

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The first thing you notice is the buzzing of the propellers. Then you hear the pre-recorded message: “Stay at home, you can't go out here.” The words are coming from a drone flying up above. These machines have long been used in specific security operations but since France introduced its coronavirus restrictions on March 17th they have also regularly been deployed by police forces to help enforce that lockdown. They are being used across France, in urban and rural areas, by both gendarmes – who are typically based in the countryside and smaller towns - and the national police.