Owaisi alleged that the use of drones for surveillance violates the right to privacy; For this reason, the MP had written to the DGCA calling for a ban on drones.

Aware of an exclusive report from MediaNama, the President of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslims (AIMIM) and Lok Sabha MP from Hyderabad Asaduddin Owaisi criticized the government of Uttar Pradesh for their proposal to introduce drones to monitor roofs, terraces and protests Lucknow Safe City project.

Speaking at a press conference on August 23, Owaisi said, “The call for tenders published by the Uttar Pradesh government says it will also monitor protests. They say they will discover “unscrupulous elements”. Who are you to decide who is an “unscrupulous element”? Protests are part of democracy. The tender also states that they will monitor the roofs and terraces of the citizens. Why are you gonna do this Tomorrow you (the government) will probably ask to look in my toilet! “

As part of the Lucknow Safe City project, the UP government wants to use drones in the city to sniff out terraces and roofs “and similar hard-to-reach places with conventional cameras”. These are the other reasons the UP government gives for using drones:

  • To provide a high vantage point for quick response in surveillance operations
  • “To act as an active deterrent against unscrupulous elements in challenging law-and-order situations such as rallies, Rasta Roko and similar mob / crowd-led activities,” says the tender.

Owaisi alleged that the use of drones for surveillance was unconstitutional and violated the right to privacy. “When these security measures are put in place, a data protection law should be introduced first. Otherwise my data can be misused; it can be used to curtail my fundamental rights, ”he added.

Ban on the use of drones for surveillance: Owaisi in letter to DGCA

During the press conference and on Twitter, Owaisi also mentioned a letter he wrote to the General Directorate of Civil Aviation in 2020 to ban the use of drones for surveillance and police purposes.

MediaNama has reviewed a copy of the letter in which Owaisi filed his objection to the 2020 unmanned aircraft system rules drafted at the time. This is what Owaisi said in his letter to Hillol Biswas, Director, Aircraft Engineering at DGCA:

  • The potential misuse of drones to violate the privacy of citizens has not been adequately addressed in the draft UAS rules 2020
  • Annex VI of the draft rule states: “Ensure privacy of individuals and their property during operation”. That provision only subjects the issue of individual privacy to the interpretation of the UAS operator, Owaisi said.
  • Draft Rule 35 allows UAS to take pictures by claiming privacy. “With little supervision, a drone operator can use this technology for illegal and criminal purposes,” he said.
  • Rule 35 of the draft UAS rules should be amended to include the consent requirement for the inclusion of visual material. “In addition, the period for which personal data may be collected or stored should be appropriately limited. No images or data may be used for any purpose other than the purpose for which they were collected. “
  • Law enforcement agencies used drones to “storm” the house (with no evidence of crime), he alleged. “Such an unbridled transfer of power to the law enforcement authorities has a far-reaching encroachment on the constitutionally protected personal rights of citizens,” he said.
  • The Hyderabad MP went on to say that law enforcement agencies are using them at the expense of citizens’ right to privacy as there is no ban on the use of drones. He referred to the KS Puttaswamy vs. Union of India judgment, which found that the right to privacy is a fundamental right. “There is no such reprehensible invasion of privacy as “unauthorized intrusion into a person’s home”.“,” he said.

Therefore, it is recommended that the use of UAS technology for law enforcement and surveillance purposes be prohibited. Such a commitment irreversibly damages the right to privacy. A person – whether in public or at home – has legitimate and reasonable trust in privacy. By nature, such technology allows its user to violate that expectation – by eavesdropping on private conversations, monitoring private gatherings, and tracking a person’s lawful movements. No sensible balance can be struck between the constant and unjustified need of law enforcement agencies to monitor citizens and the citizens’ right to privacy, security and protection. – Letter from Asaduddin Owaisi to the DGCA

In the letter, Owaisi also pointed out the use of automated facial recognition systems (AFRS) and stressed that such technologies should not be used in combination with drones.

It is well known that the Automatic Facial Recognition System (AFRS) or other biometric surveillance technologies that claim to identify a person based on the contours of their face or their gait or voice are unreliable and rely heavily on pre-existing databases. These systems have also been reported to reflect prejudices about race, gender, and disability. Therefore, the rules should prohibit any use of AFRS technology in combination with UAS technology – letter from Asaduddin Owaisi to the DGCA

Read our four-part series on the Lucknow Safe City Project

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