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The Westport Police Department’s scuttled the “pandemic drone” after complaints over privacy concerns, according to reports.
“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,” Westport elected official Jim Marpe said.
“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,” he said.
Michael Picard told the Westport News the drones could “lead to people being unnecessarily harassed.”
“The decision by the Westport Police Department to scrap their drone program is a victory for the people and civil liberties, especially in a time of overreach,” Picard told the paper Thursday.
Another critic, ACLU Connecticut’s David McGuire told the paper that as the state copes with thousands of COVID-19 cases and deaths, the focus should not be on drones.
“We are not hearing a cry for new surveillance technologies,” he said. “The urgent need at the moment, according to public health experts, is to ramp up testing capability, suppress transmission through social distancing measures, and support our hospitals as they face an influx of patients.”
Westport police were planning to fly the drones over large groups to enforce social distancing restrictions and detect individuals exhibiting coronavirus symptoms like fevers and coughs.
“The Westport Police Department along with first responders around the world are looking for effective ways to ease the spread of COVID-19 and keep their communities safe,” Police Chief Foti Koskinas said.
He announced the pilot program earlier in the week in partnership with Dragonfly, a health care data service.