France’s highest administrative court on Tuesday banned the use of drones to monitor protests in Paris, responding to a complaint from digital rights NGO La Quadrature du Net.
“The [Paris] police prefect is requested to cease, with immediate effect, carrying out surveillance measures by drones of public gatherings of people,” reads the decision issued by the Council of State and published by La Quadrature du Net.
Back in May, the Council of State had already banned the use of drones to monitor Parisian streets to enforce coronavirus-related sanitary restrictions.
In Tuesday’s decision, the Council of State expressed “serious doubts on the legality” of the Paris police prefect’s decision to engage in monitoring by drones, which amounts to processing personal data. All the more so as there was no text to define the scheme’s modalities.
The government could not prove that public security during demonstrations could not be guaranteed without deploying drones, the court added.
A controversial security bill recently voted by the National Assembly in first reading sets rules for the use of camera-equipped drones by the police.
La Quadrature du Net said Tuesday’s decision weakens the bill itself and the government defending it.
“This decision of the Council of State is a double slap in the face for the government: Not only are drones banned, but the government has lost all of its legitimacy on the legal front for wanting to authorize them in the law,” the NGO said in a statement.