Our comment on a posting on Labour MP Tom Watson's blog might be in the junk or moderation queues, unless, of course, this is another website which is censoring our views. Perhaps he will see the Trackback instead.
We were trying to comment on this posting:
01.12.2006: Watching him illegally watching you?
The information commissoner [sic] believes that the use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology may be illegal. This would be very difficult for current police operations. For one, there has been an increasing reliance of ANPR by traffic police in recent years.
Surely you mean the Office of the Surveillance Commissioners, rather than the Information Commissioner ?
I spent a day with the police to examine the use of the technology. Any car identified as not having tax or the correct records using the system was stopped. Frankly, it was like shooting fish in a barrel. The police were pulling out offensive weapons and a stack of drugs from nearly everyone they stopped.
We have no real objection to the use of ANPR lookups to the Police National Computer etc. for roadside patrols and checkpoints, where the information is used directly for stops and searches of suspicious vehicles, which is what was demonstrated to Tom Watson.
However, that is not the main use of ANPR any more - there are only one or two mobile ANPR roadside traffic Police teams per regional Police force..
However, Local Authority run CCTV surveillance cameras, either for traffic or "street protection" are now being converted to use ANPR. Why should Local Authority employees, or their private sector sub-contractors, ever be trusted with what is effectively back-door access to the Police National Computer and the DVLA databases ?
See: "ANPR database retention rules - Parliamentary Answer claims 2 years when it is actually 6 years or longer"
The National ANPR Database has never been the subject of widespread informed debate, either by the public or by Parliament.
What possible excuse is there for the retention of the numberplate, time, date and location log files of millions of innocent, law abiding motorists, either for 90 days or 2 years or 6 years or longer ? This data on innocent people, should be deleted immediately.
ANPR is also being used by supermarkets and petrol station retailers.
Similarly, most of the mad cap schemes proposed for national road pricing, seem to involve ANPR for some or all of the enforcement of the new tax.
In his recent report (pdf), the commissioner says that: "The unanimous view of the commissioners is that the existing legislation is not apt to deal with the fundamental problems to which the deployment of ANPR cameras gives rise..." Translated from mandarin-speak, that means pretty serious. He thinks use of the technology could be classed as unathourised [sic] covert surveillance by the courts.
Do not confuse the Information Commissioner Richard Thomas with the Chief Surveillance Commissioner, who, at the time of this report was Rt. Hon. Sir Andrew Leggatt, and who is now, since 1st July 2006, Rt. Hon. Sir Christopher Rose.
See our UK Commissioners link for contact details.
The Surveillance Commissioners, who are all former High Court or similar Judges, are correct in
saying that mass surveillance ANPR falls foul of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 Part II requirement to get individual permission to use Directed or Covert Surveillance, only for carefully targeted Police or intelligence agency investigations of serious crimes i.e. ones which would attract a prison sentence of 3 or more years for a first time offender if convicted.
I'm going to urgently quiz Police Minister Tony McNulty on this next week.
We do not trust Tony McNulty, and wonder why he is still a Minister, after the Home Office disasters over which he has presided, e.g. the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, the National Identity Register / ID cards project and his failed attempts at re-organisation of the regional Police forces etc.