Privacy SOS

Hamas says Israel sent a butterfly drone to Gaza to look for captured Israeli soldiers

Image: Al-Majd

Journalist Mohammed Omar reports that Hamas says Israel is using butterfly-shaped drones equipped with what sounds like facial recognition technology to locate kidnapped Israeli soldiers in Gaza:

Last month, the Palestinian Hamas movement reported that it had seized an electronic butterfly fluttering around the Gaza Strip.

The story was first reported by al-Majd, a security website close to Hamas, which reported that the techno-butterfly was being used by Israel for spying and monitoring the military bases of Palestinian operatives across the coastal enclave of Gaza.

It was also suggested that the spy-butterflies were being used to search for two Israeli soldiers, reportedly captured in last summer’s war.

More than 2,200 Palestinians – mostly civilians – and 73 Israelis, mostly soldiers, were killed during the conflict.

According to al-Majd, one of Gaza’s security departments claims to have dismantled the spy-butterfly and found pictures of the captured Israeli soldiers stored in the memory-ware.

Much like drones and surveillance balloons used by Israel over Gaza, al-Majd states the e-butterfly is operated and monitored via a GPS control system found within its system.

The size of the spy-butterfly is similar to a small bird and resembles a bird at a distance. It can access houses via small holes, open doors and windows, according to Al-Majd.

The State of Israel has long invested in pushing the technological boundaries of drone development. The Israeli military has used surveillance drones in combat as far back as 1971, when they were deployed for the Yom Kippur War.

In the US, most states do not have laws regulating law enforcement use of drones. Police sometimes say there shouldn't be regulation, and that because police can use helicopter surveillance without judicial oversight, law enforcement shouldn't be required to get a warrant before deploying spy drones. But as the butterfly drone makes clear, drones and helicopters are about as alike as mice and elephants. Helicopters can't fit through a hole in your screen door, but the little guy featured in the image above could.

The US Air Force is also interested in perfecting the art of small drones—and their bug-sized flying robots can reportedly kill.

A bill currently before the state legislature in Massachusetts, the Drone Privacy Act, would require police to obtain warrants before using surveillance drones, and ban weaponized drones from the state entirely.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.