Only 9 percent of the drone flights approved by the Ministry of Defence, was published in advance in 2013. In 2011, that was 87 percent.
“That is disturbing, because it is a relatively new means that causes so much disquiet,” says Gerrit-Jan Zwenne, Professor of Law in the Information Society at the University of Leiden and lawyer at Bird & Bird LLP in The Hague.
From data NU.nl collected from the Government Gazette, it shows that drones are used at 546 days during exercises and surveillance since 2009.
The drones flew over the homes of 3.2 million Dutch, nearly 20 percent of the population. Previous research shows that these patrols hardly lead to more detentions.
“This creates an atmosphere of mistrust and unrest”, thinks Zwenne. “Because Defense now chooses to make this known after the fact, it leads to concerns that might not even be right.”
“It is a tool that invades your privacy. That should be controlled where possible,” says the professor.
The Ministry of Defense stressed that surveillance is conducted under the authority of the Ministry of Security and Justice in some cases. “In the interest of investigation the flight is published after the fact in the Government Gazette,” says a spokesman.
The secrecy of Defense can lead to another investigative culture, according to Zwenne. “Instances which use these tools and are not checked, will push the limits. They’ll always take one step further with deploying drones, even when there are better alternatives.”
That attitude can trickle down to the population, according to the professor. “If you have no ethics itself, you can not ask citizens have some themselves. Someone filming their neighbours without permission, for instance.”
Rob van Nieuwland, chairing drone DARPAS association, also pleads though for more transparency from the government.
“Once you do that, you remove the sting out of the privacy debate. Many people now wonder why the drones above buzzing above our heads,” says Van Nieuwland.