FierceElectronics reports that Draganfly is claiming that their technologies can, when attached to a drone, detect fever, coughs, respiration, heart rate, & blood pressure for a given human at a distance. Put another way, this drone company is saying that the Australian government can collect biometric data using their technology that would normally would require a medical tech or medic to directly measure.
On the one hand, there’s public good in agencies developing the capacity for public health workers to determine whether people are sick without getting close to them and deliver telemedicine at a distance. Flying or tracked drones could go into buildings, crowds or conflict zones that would be unsafe for a paramedic or doctor to enter, or deployed act as a first point of triage at a border or entrance.
On the other hand, if national, state, and local governments begin gathering biometric data from populations without a warrant or consent, they need to build in oversight for how it will be used and by whom, from health insurance providers to law enforcement agencies.
No government should begin using biometric sensors to track the health of the public at scale without clear evidence that doing so would have public health benefits that outweigh the negative impact upon civil liberties and privacy.
Widespread deployment would also effectively mean our expectation of biometric privacy is voided unless strong data protection laws are in place.
Without proper protections first in place, this could move unfettered mass surveillance beyond the content of someone’s personal documents and data on their devices and online accounts, and into their bodies.
Despite the Fourth Amendment, courts in the United States have continued to deprive us of our constitutional right to be secure in our person and private papers without probable cause. If scaled around the world, these new biometric surveillance technologies will deprive publics of their basic human right to be secure within their persons and thoughts.
While there are valid reasons for governments to take advantage of emerging technologies to test, detect, track and trace the contours of this epidemic, regulators and legislators must be foresighted in ensuring that civil liberties are not disregarded in the rush to respond to this challenge. Unchecked surveillance could usher in a new age of preemptive detention and quarantine without due process.