Police launch drones to make sure you're wearing a mask

As Covid continues to plague, will the police be tempted to take technological liberties? In Australia, they're trying.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

Another symbol of a post-Covid future?

Screenshot by ZDNet

I worry we've become used to being spied upon.

I don't suggest this is a good thing. I do wonder, though, whether humanity's defenses have been permanently weakened. Especially as the Coronavirus has made many of us even more dependent on technology as we work from home.

When, though, does instrusive become abusive?

I only ask because of a moving report emerging from Australia.

The police in Victoria -- the state that houses Melbourne -- are trying a new way to make sure people are wearing masks.

As 7News Melbourne reports, they're sending up drones to catch mask miscreants. They'll also be deputed to discover cars that have gone beyond five kilometers from home, in contravention of current laws.

Melbourne has suffered a return of Covid-19, after many thought it had passed. At the beginning of this month, Melbourne declared, a state of emergency.

The lockdown carries with it fines of up to A$20,000. Failing to wear a mask will cost you A$200.

I can conceive how certain parts of America would warm to such penalties.

And, indeed, how they might warm to the idea that a drone will be spying on their faces, and report on them if they're not wearing a mask.

One can understand -- if not feel comfortable with or even find tolerable -- the use of such flying machines at a time like this.

However, one sentence from the 7News report offers a chilling thought: "There are concerns this style of policing won't end when the pandemic is over."

That's the issue with so many technological glories being used for policing. Where does it end? Does it end at all?

It's the sort of thing that's driven tech employees themselves to lobby their managements. Recently, Amazon declared it wouldn't use its facial recognition system to be used by the police for a year. This could be because some believe it's painfully inaccurate.

Of course, concerns about surveillance heighten with every day one is alive.

Imagine, though, how it might feel if you need milk and bananas, you've accidentally forgotten your mask and are quickly running to the store.

Suddenly, you hear a buzzing sound.

A minute or two later, you're being grabbed from behind.

"You're not wearing a mask," says the voice.

And then imagine, in 2021, you need milk and bananas and are quickly running to the store.

Suddenly, you hear a buzzing sound.

A minute or two later you're being grabbed from behind.

"You're two minutes over your parking time," says the voice.

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