The Wexford County Council were using drone surveillance to monitor those in the local community during the heights of the Covid-19 pandemic…
Drone surveillance was used to monitor holiday homes, private dwellings, and caravan parks, which gained national headlines.
In late April, a member of the Wexford County Council stated that:
“We have, since Easter, been carrying out this monitoring along the coastline. And I’m delighted, I must say, to be able to say that we have found very high levels of compliance and very little evidence of travel restriction breaches in these areas to date. We hope that will continue, particularly as we face into the May Bank Holiday weekend, but certainly our evidence would suggest that there is very strong compliance.”
It has now emerged that Darragh O’Brien, a data protection consultant from Wexford, has filed a complaint to the DPC specifically “in respect of the failure of the county council to conduct a DPIA”. The DPC is the Irish supervisory authority for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
“I am stunned that a local authority has not done a DPIA for the deployment of what amounts to a mass surveillance technology. It is not sufficient for their staff to ‘be aware of GDPR’ as one of the officials states in the correspondence released to me, they have to put it into practice,” he said to Ciaran Brennan of BreakingNews.ie.
According to BreakingNews.ie, at a Wexford County Council meeting on Apr 15, an official referred to his perceived public approval of the drone surveillance after he had “noted 1,700 likes on Twitter.”
A privacy solicitor, Rosa McMahon, also weighed in on the County Council’s use of drone surveillance:
“It is surprising and disappointing that local authorities are continuing to experiment with highly invasive surveillance technology which, in reality, they have no need or legal basis for using, even when the Data Protection Commission is still investigating the use of CCTV and surveillance by county councils in Ireland.”
“It goes without saying that county councils are not policing authorities and have no role in enforcing the Covid-19 regulations,” she noted.