The Kingdom of Morocco has turned towards the mass use of drones to help combat the spread of COVID-19, using them for public-service announcements, to disband illegal public gatherings, and to disperse sanitation sprays.
Drones have long been used in Morocco, but under strict regulations, allegedly for security purposes. DJI drones, manufactured in Shenzhen, China, have been the preferred model, but a domestic production of the devices has taken off to respond to the pandemic.
Using drones has the obvious benefit of helping the authorities to more easily monitor populations without putting people in direct physical contact, but this brings with it its own set of problems.
Big Brother is Watching
Morocco is not the only country in Africa or the world to employ drones as part of their COVID-19 policy; to the north, civil rights groups in France have expressed concerns over privacy rights as French police began using drones to enforce quarantine measures. The Electronic Freedom Foundation, a digital rights non-profit group based in San Francisco, California, issued a strongly worded column on the dangers that drones pose for people’s right to free speech, association, and assembly.
The longer governments rely on drones to deal with the current health crisis, the greater the potential that law enforcement would exploit them to infringe on protesters’ rights, especially when it comes to drones equipped with facial recognition and thermal imaging technology.