Americans are speaking out about maintaining their civil liberties and constitutional rights during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a U.S. senator has raised concerns about intrusive drone technology.
"People are very concerned about their privacy rights,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn told the “Todd Starnes” radio program, “and the drones that would pick up their body temperature, would pick up their movements along with their cell phones being tracked, to find out where they've been and who they've been in contact with."
The hard-hit state of New Jersey is using drones in Elizabeth, a city of 130,000, where cameras are watching the populace to enforce “social distancing” using automated voice messages, an ABC News affiliate reported.
The CEO of drone company Draganfly told the news outlet that newer drones, which can monitor people for sickness, will be deployed later this month.
Law enforcement officials in Westport, Connecticut announced plans to monitor the public with drones, too, but backed off after privacy concerns, website The Verge reported.
Westport was set to use the same company, Draganfly, as Elizabeth, New Jersey.
In the case of the Westport controversy, the ACLU of Connecticut complained about the plan, linking “privacy-invading companies” using the pandemic to create more “business opportunities.”
In the radio interview, Sen. Blackburn said she had recently read a news article that describes an effort to use FitBit and similar apps to monitor walking and exercising during the virus outbreak.
It's unclear what article Blackburn was referring to but a USA Today article, published April 3, says wearables such as Fitbit and Apple Watch may play a role in the detection of the coronavirus.
The article says hospitals are “grasping for creative new ways” to better react to the spreading virus today but states a couple of paragraphs later that the current effort could result in “lasting changes for what wearables track, and how our doctors make use of that data to help keep an eye on our conditions and decide how and when to treat us.”
When users strap on such technology today, Blackburn pointed out, they have no idea that their personal information could be used in the future by the corporation itself, not just by the user.
"Those are the type of privacy violations,” the senator said, “that we are seeing take place right right now, and of course it's a concern."