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Punjab police to fly drones to arrest kite flyers

The police of Punjab has decided to use drones in order to monitor and arrest kite flyers. Experts fear that such use of technology is tantamount to the erosion of privacy. Is it so? Read this detailed piece.

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According to media reports, Punjab Police has decided to use drones for surveillance as part of a province-wide crackdown against kite flyers. They will reportedly be using drones to locate, identify, and arrest the culprits. Experts believe such use of technology may lead to the erosion of privacy.

With public places under lockdown due to the novel coronavirus, citizens have little options to keep themselves entertained at home. Despite a ban on kite flying in the province, people are blatantly violating the law with complete disregard for human life.

Each year, numerous deaths are reported due to incidents linked with kite flying. Most of the time unsuspecting bike riders are killed as glass-coated sharp strings slit their throats.

Several incidents of falling from rooftops while flying a kite or getting electrocuted while catching a kite are also reported each year. Last month, a 25-year old bike rider died after a stray string slit his throat at Ferozepur Road, Factory Area, and Lahore.

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Governments across the world are now using technology to deal with novel Coronavirus. To ensure lockdowns and physical distancing, the governments around the world are using various tactics ranging from the imposition of fines to digital cameras to restrict people’s movements.

Some of the policies have been challenged by rights’ originations. For example, in Pakistan, the Sindh Police Department’s Security and Emergency Service Division has launched an application dubbed “Citizen Monitoring App.”

The Citizen Monitoring App is designed to keep tabs on citizens roaming around the city. It will be available only to the officials and will be installed on Mobile Phones used by officers deputed at police checkpoints.

Authoritarian tech across the world

It is worth noting that recently Moscow police claimed to have caught and fined 200 people who violated quarantine and self-isolation using facial recognition and a 170,000-camera system. According to a Russian media report, some of the alleged violators who were fined had been outside for less than half a minute before they were picked up by a camera.

“We want there to be even more cameras so that that there is no dark corner or side street left,” Oleg Baranov, Moscow’s police chief, said in a recent briefing, adding that the service is currently working to install an additional 9,000 cameras.

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In Israel, the Shin Bet security service has shifted its powerful surveillance program to retrace the movements of coronavirus patients or suspected carriers. The mechanism is similar to that used in Russia — phone and credit card data is used for mapping, and health officials must be alert and quarantine people who were within 2 meters, for 10 minutes or more, of someone infected with the virus, according to the country’s Health Ministry.

The ministry said in a statement the information will only be used by its specialists and deleted after 60 days. But rights groups have filed a petition against it to the High Court of Justice, which warned it will shut the program down unless more oversight is in place. On Thursday, Shin Bet said in a statement that it helped the health authorities to identify and isolate more than 500 residents who were found to be sick with the coronavirus.

In South Korea, the government used data from credit card transactions, phone geo-location and surveillance footage to give detailed information on coronavirus patients, without identifying them by name, according to a government’s website. The result was a map where people can see if they were in close proximity to a coronavirus carrier. Detailed histories led to some patients being doxxed — having their personal information outed without consent — and authorities decided to scale down the data-sharing policies.

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Experts believe that these tools will become a permanent part of our lives, and the governments will use them to control citizens. Yuval Noah Harari, author of ‘Sapiens’, ‘Homo Deus’ and ‘21 Lessons for the 21st Century’, believes that “Many short-term emergency measures will become a fixture of life. That is the nature of emergencies. They fast-forward historical processes. Decisions that in normal times could take years of deliberation are passed in a matter of hours.”

Moreover, Harari notes that “Immature and even dangerous technologies are pressed into the service, because the risks of doing nothing are bigger. Entire countries serve as guinea-pigs in large-scale social experiments. What happens when everybody works from home and communicates only at a distance? What happens when entire schools and universities go online? In normal times, governments, businesses and educational boards would never agree to conduct such experiments. But these aren’t normal times.”