Back in 2005, we warned that the unelected, unaccountable quango, the Association of Chie Police Officers and the Home Office were creating, by stealth , and without any public debate or consultation, a new National Automatic Number Plate Recognition Database which could retain the vehicle movement data of millions of innocent motorists, for excessive periods of time, i.e. up to 6 years.
Our fears seem to have been confirmed by this report in today's Guardian newspaper, which seems to show that the entirely predictable scope or function creep of the project has already happened. "give them an inch, and they will take a mile".
Given the recent data security and privacy scandals, how can the public be confident that the private details of millions of innocent motorists, and the privacy of their journey patterns, has not already been lost or stolen on unencrypted laptop computer, USB memory device or CD or DVD ?
How can we be sure that this national database is not accessible online by unuthorised people, or by corrupt or incompetent authorised insiders, whether they be Policemen, civilian staff or sub-contractors or consultants etc ?
When the planned mass surveillance camera and communications infrastructure is fully deployed, the National ANPR Database, combined with commercial systems such as Trafficmaster, will present a serious potential risk to the safety and security of VIPs at risk of kidnapping or assassination, to high value commercial vehicles (e.g. armoured vans full of cash) at risk of hijacking or armed robbery, and to military weapons or explosives convoys, including nuclear weapons convoys etc. All of these usually travel via pre-planned alternative routes, which will be revealed, remotely, in real time, by such a system.
Database to hold details of millions of journeys for five years
Monday September 15 2008
The police are to expand a car surveillance operation that will allow them to record and store details of millions of daily journeys for up to five years, the Guardian has learned.
A national network of roadside cameras will be able to "read" 50m licence plates a day, enabling officers to reconstruct the journeys of motorists.
Police have been encouraged to "fully and strategically exploit" the database, which is already recording the whereabouts of 10 million drivers a day, during investigations ranging from counter-terrorism to low-level crime.
But it has raised concerns from civil rights campaigners, who question whether the details should be kept for so long, and want clearer guidance on who might have access to the material.
The project relies on automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras to pinpoint the precise time and location of all vehicles on the road. Senior officers had promised the data would be stored for two years. But responding to inquiries under the Freedom of Information Act, the Home Office has admitted the data is now being kept for five years.
Be very clear, this is not ANPR data regarding criminals or people who are actually being watched, or watched out for, as part of a narrowly targeted criminal or intelligence agency investigation, this is vehicle movement data of the vast majority of millions of innocent motorists
Thousands of CCTV cameras across the country have been converted to read ANPR data, capturing people's movements in cars on motorways, main roads, airports and town centres.
Local authorities have since adapted their own CCTV systems to capture licence plates on behalf of police, massively expanding the network of available cameras. Mobile cameras have been installed in patrol cars and unmarked vehicles parked by the side of roads.
Police helicopters have been equipped with infrared cameras that can read licence plates from 610 metres (2,000ft).
In four months' time, when a nationwide network of cameras is fully operational, the National ANPR Data Centre in Hendon, north London, will record up to 50m licence plates a day.
This has been touted as the largest Oracle database system in Europe.
The Home Office said in a letter that the Hendon database would "store all ANPR captured data for five years". The photograph of a person's licence plate will, in most cases, be stored for one year.
"all ANPR captured data for five years" represents a big increase in the amount of vehicle movement data being retained , from 2 years in most cases (6 years or longer if there is any hint of any criminal investigation, even peripherally).
See our January 2006 blog article based on a Parliamentary Written Answer - ANPR database retention rules - Parliamentary Answer claims 2 years when it is actually 6 years or longer
See also the data rape of the CCTV and ANPR and credit card payment systems behind the London Congestion Charge and London Low Emission Zone and other Transport for London CCTV cameras etc., which are being copied, in bulk, in real time to a secret Metropolitan Police data mining system.
The Information Commissioner is no longer allowed to prosecute anyone for abusing this data, which is now exempt from even the weak safeguards under the Data Protection Act, because of a Certificate signed by the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act should forbid such untargeted, mass surveillance, but the Chief Surveillance Commissioner Rt. Hon. Sir Christopher Rose, does not seem to care to get involved or to provide any public scrutiny, for what that is worth.