Connecticut town drops drone program to combat COVID-19 spread over privacy concerns

Published 28 - April - 2020
technologygovernancecompliancesc media
Source: SC Magazine
Read full article

“Like other Internet of Things (IoT) devices, drones currently have very poor security controls, making them vulnerable to hijacking.” Steve Durbin, Managing Director, ISF.

Drones chasing people around during a worldwide pandemic to determine if they’ve been infected with the coronavirus seemed too much like something out of a sci-fi movie, fraught with privacy and security concerns, for a Connecticut town that joined, then quickly ditched its plans to participate in, the Draganfly drone Flatten the Curve program.

“In our good faith effort to get ahead of the virus and potential need to manage and safely monitor crowds and social distancing in this environment, our announcement was perhaps misinterpreted, not well-received, and posed many additional questions,” First Selectman Jim Marpe said in a statement. “We heard and respect your concerns, and are therefore stepping back and re-considering the full impact of the technology and its use in law enforcement protocol.”

In an attempt to stop the spread of the virus, the Westport Police Department had planned to test the drones to enforce social distancing and to detect fever or coughing from up to 190 feet away. But those plans troubled citizens and privacy experts alike.

“Like other Internet of Things (IoT) devices, drones currently have very poor security controls, making them vulnerable to hijacking. Commercial drones provide a fresh privacy concern as they begin to store sensitive information on board,” said Steve Durbin, managing director of the Information Security Forum (ISF). “The majority will be fitted with cameras or a range of sensors, collecting information such as GPS location, credit card numbers, email addresses or physical addresses. This type of data will certainly be a major target for attackers over the coming years.”

As the pandemic has washed over the world, local, state and federal governments have turned to technology to augment efforts to quash it. In some cases officials have signaled that they would be willing to soften privacy strictures for the greater good of protecting public health.