If you thought the proliferation of CCTV surveillance in many countries was bad then you may be shocked to hear that the Dutch parliament has overwhelmingly voted in favour of the use of drone surveillance.

The new law, proposed by Ivo Opstelten, Minister of Security and Justice, and Ronald Platerk, Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, won approval from almost all of the country’s large number of political parties.

Its adoption will mean that Dutch municipalities will be allowed to monitor their citizens via mobile cameras, including those deployed on drones.

City mayors will now be able to choose which type of camera surveillance should be used in times of civil disturbances that are not confined to static areas, picking between fixed devices and ones that are either attached to vehicles or airborne.

A clarification document sings the praises of surveillance technology, extolling the virtues of crime reduction and increased public safety, whilst highlighting that the use of drones will not lead to a reduction in CCTV that is already in place.

The problem with such an approach, of course, is the impact that such a move could have on the privacy of Dutch citizens.

Whilst the drones are only authorised for use in situations where there is a threat to public safety (which is already a rather broad term don’t you think?), there is no clarification on how large a geographical area the surveillance can take place in which I think at least raises the possibility of some nefarious future official going beyond their remit in terms of ‘spying’ on the populace.

Furthermore, there are no guarantees available that Dutch lawmakers will not go further in the future and there are fears that the drones could one day be easily equipped with facial recognition technology.  Opstelten himself told the D66 party that he was unable to forsee what future uses the drones may be put to and could not rule out facial recognition in the future. Tellingly, he also said that the possibility of future privacy violations was no reason not to proceed.

Given my eternal cynicism where government surveillance is considered, in conjunction with what we now know about the NSA spying on US citizens, I wonder if the Netherlands will merely serve as a testing ground for widespread drone usage in the future?

Given the recent revelations from Edward Snowden about government spying on telephone and computer actions, do you also worry that our childrens’ world will be one in which personal privacy is considered to be an antiquated ideal?

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