STA, 25 July 2019 - After annulling legislative amendments that allow the police to use equipment for automatic license plate recognition, the Constitutional Court has now cleared provisions that allow them to use drones.
The use of drones and systems for automatic license plate recognition were introduced into law through amendments to the police tasks and powers act, passed by parliament in February 2017.
These and some other changes, including those on collection of air passenger data, have been challenged by Human Rights Ombudsman at the Constitutional Court on grounds of invasion of privacy.
Deliberating on each sets of changes separately, the court annulled the provisions on automatic license plate recognition last week, but now found the use of drones in police work does not breach the constitution.
The ombudsman argued that the law defined the application of drones "in such a generalised fashion that it can no longer satisfy the demand for being proportional with the benefits as following from the constitution".
The ombudsman was bothered in particular by the provision that allows the use of drones for collection of evidence of criminal acts and for identification of perpetrators.
The ombudsman argued that the technology would allow continuous and and all-encompassing surveillance, a technology that would become ever more sophisticated, advanced and capable.
However, the court held that the petitioner grounded the alleged unconstitutionalities in insufficient detail, setting out the risks of drones for personal data protection only in general terms.
The court will deliberate on the provisions governing collection of air passenger data separately.
Earlier this week, the court imposed a temporary injunction on the use of IMSI catchers, devices that mimic mobile phone towers to intercept mobile traffic.
These were introduced into law by amendments to the criminal procedure act in March. The amendments have been challenged by the opposition Democrats (SDS) and Left with the court's decision still pending.