Volkskrant, 19 March 2013: 'Beware, drones with cameras watch over your garden'
“Drones are increasingly used as a police detection tool. The 'flying cameras' broaden public camera surveillance in the Netherlands to private property, such as gardens and roof terraces. This is an invasion of privacy, argue MPs and legal experts. The foundation Privacy First is considering filing a lawsuit against the state.
Drones are equipped with cameras, night vision and heat detection. Police use the unmanned robotic aircraft to track burglars or cannabis plantations. Unannounced camera surveillance is prohibited in the Netherlands, argues Vincent Böhre, lawyer in Dutch and European law at the foundation Privacy First. 'Camera surveillance should be announced. There are signs in shops or the tram informing you about it. Even the controversial Amigoboras camera system used by the military police to control the border is announced with signs along the highway. The same principles should apply to police drones.'
The police and prosecutor's office do not make any announcements about the deployment of the unmanned aerial vehicles. The flights are only reported afterwards in the Government Gazette. It shows that drones have been deployed over 40 different Dutch locations at least 132 times since 2009. In 2012, the robotic aircraft were deployed at least 82 times; this year already counts at least 32 flights.
War expert Leon Wecke of Radboud University Nijmegen also calls their use by police an unauthorised broadening of public camera surveillance. 'We are being stalked by drones while we are unaware of it,' argues Wecke. 'Fire brigades and police have them, water boards and large companies probably do too. Maybe they are used for corporate espionage.'
Not only Böhre and Wecke, but also D66 MP Gerard Schouw believes that regulations for the legitimate deployment of the unmanned aerial vehicles are lacking. He has submitted parliamentary questions to Security Minister Opstelten about the purposes of the unmanned flights, their costs, legitimacy, their number and legal liability if accidents happen to them. He also wants to know whether other government agencies also use drones, and for what purpose.
SP MP Sharon Gesthuizen argues that drones can be a good detection option against serious crime, but 'this cannot be done without a clear mandate and good conditions'. Ahmed Marcouch of the PvdA says people 'should not feel they are being secretly spied on. It must be well regulated and responsible'.
The CDA is a supporter of drones in the fight against crime. MP Peter Oskam is not afraid of the invasion of privacy, but he does fear accidents, such as those that have occurred in the US.
Aviation prosecutor Fred Bijlsma could not be reached for comment yesterday. His spokeswoman let it be known that he could not answer questions until Opstelten had answered D66's parliamentary questions."
Source: Volkskrant, 19 March 2013.