Johannesburg – The proposed amendments to the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) regulations to include unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) leave loopholes for the use of weaponised drones in South Africa, and do not take into account the right to privacy.
“The proposed amendments for UAVs do not protect the security and privacy of citizens and leave room for abuse by private companies and government. They can easily cause South Africa to slip into a surveillance state,” says Karen Jayes, spokesperson for CAGE Africa.
In the wake of the Paris attacks, scientists have said that mass surveillance does not help to avert such events, but rather diverts intelligence resources in pursuing large numbers of false leads.
The amendments come as increasing numbers of foreign and local private security companies approach local government to test and run their UAVs.
“The UAVs are being touted as cheap and advanced solutions to disaster management and city planning – but as has been in the case in the United States, drones have been introduced on the basis of the good they can do, while their more sinister uses such as surveillance and defence comes into play later on.”
Two companies have been mentioned so far in connection with drone tests in South Africa: SkyCap, a UK-based company that operates ‘security’ drones in Afghanistan; and Desert Wolf, a local company that is the representative of FLIR Systems, which is also contracted to the US Department of Homeland Security.
South African mining companies have purchased pepper spray and plastic bullet firing drones, allegedly to control union protests.
“CAGE Africa urges the CAA to tighten the draft regulations to ban the use of weaponised drones, and to protect South Africans from unwarranted surveillance, in line with the Protection of Personal Information Act.”
CAGE Africa has the following concerns regarding the proposed draft legislation:
“Issues of privacy and security are ignored in the current proposals, and permission for drones that would impede on these rights is granted to the Director of the CAA, who is under ministerial direction – this opens the way for abuse of due process where rights are at stake.”
“Final accountability for drone operations lies with the pilot, not with the company or government that has facilitated the mission. This leaves those whose rights have been infringed upon by UAV missions little recourse to justice.”
“There needs to be a provision prohibiting the use of drones in a manner that would invade the privacy or affect the safety of any legal or natural person.”
“We agree that drones can be useful in some circumstances, but there must be some sort of complaints mechanism and sanctions – such as the loss of a licence, a fine or criminal sanction – if a drone is used for purposes other than licensed, or which infringe upon constitutional rights.”
“The complaints section should allow for the public to lodge complaints, for complaints to be investigated and for sanctions against the illegal use of drones to be imposed by a panel or body of the CAA.”
“As it stands, the final approval for drone operations involving people lies with the Director who defers to the Operations Manual of the craft. The Operations Manual, in turn, remains far from public scrutiny.”
“An environment that is not properly regulated to protect security and privacy results in a surveillance state, the effects of which have been well documented and include self-censorship among activists and an increase in violence and mistrust between citizens and the state.”
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)