Media Contact

Meghan Holden, ACLU of Connecticut, 

April 22, 2020

The Westport Police Department has announced a new drone pilot program which, police say, will be used to "monitor" social distancing and "identify" people's health symptoms, such as fevers or coughs. The following is a reaction from David McGuire, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut: 

“The COVID-19 virus is a grave public health risk, so we shouldn’t write off tools that might help mitigate the problem. But we also must recognize that technology is no magic pill to stemming the pandemic. Towns and the state should be wary of self-interested, privacy-invading companies using COVID-19 as a chance to market their products and create future business opportunities. Any new surveillance measure that isn’t being advocated for by public health professionals and restricted solely for public health use should be promptly rejected, and we are naturally skeptical of towns announcing these kinds of partnerships without information about who is operating the drones, what data they will collect, or how or if that data will be stored, shared, or sold. Remote fever detection via drone may or may not be accurate when reading a person’s temperature. Even if this drone-based remote symptom detection technology is accurate, it may not be helpful in stopping the spread of COVID-19, as some people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, not everyone with a fever or cough has COVID-19, and cameras will not be able to detect if a symptomatic COVID-19 positive person has a fever and is taking an antipyretic. We are not hearing a cry for new surveillance technologies. 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.”