Coronavirus France: cameras to monitor masks and social distancing


Urban surveillance unit in Nantes, France, 2018 file pic

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Existing cameras will get algorithms to monitor mask wear and social distance

CCTV cameras in France will monitor the number of people wearing masks and their respect for social distance when the coronavirus lock is released next week.

The seaside resort of Cannes on the French Riviera has tested surveillance software, installed on foreign markets and on buses.

It is not known how many other cities will adopt digital surveillance.

The French company Datakalab claims that its software does not violate European legislation on data confidentiality.

“No image is stored or transmitted, guaranteeing the protection of personal information,” said Datakalab, announcing his collaboration with the mayor of Cannes, before the relaxation, on May 11, of the hard locking of France.

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A surveillance camera on a bus in Cannes

Many innovations in artificial intelligence (AI) are being adopted worldwide to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and the use of these tools, under emergency laws, has sounded the alarm concerning possible invasions of privacy.

The French surveillance system includes an automatic alert to the city authorities and the police when violations of the mask and rules of removal are detected.

But Datakalab, a startup launched in 2017, insists that it is not “facial recognition” because the system does not store identification data. This distinguishes it from the type of high-tech surveillance common in China.

Datakalab says its algorithms can be integrated with existing surveillance systems in other public spaces, such as hospitals, train stations, airports and shopping malls.

France has one of the highest Covid-19 mortality rates in Europe, along with the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain. The death toll in France – which includes deaths in nursing homes – now stands at 24,895.

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From May 11, masks will have to be worn on food markets like the one in Cannes

From May 11, face masks will be mandatory in France in public transport and in high schools.

Stores and markets will also have the right to ask buyers to wear masks and should keep them within three feet of each other, according to the French government.

  • France imposes masks for schools and transport

In a Cannes trial market, 70% of buyers were already wearing masks. The city plans to distribute masks free of charge to all residents.

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Media captionDo I have to wear a mask to stop the coronavirus?

Cannes Mayor David Lisnard said: “This technology does not identify people but simply gives us a mathematical analysis to meet the needs of people. “

Since March 17, France has been subject to a strict ban which includes the obligation to carry a form explaining why you are outside in a public space.

Failure to show this form to the police can result in a fine of € 135 (£ 119; $ 148), but from May 11 it will no longer be necessary for local trips, for example in shops.


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