The British police have a high-tech system of road cameras that can recognise car registration plates, feeding this info to a computer centre in Hendon, north London, which holds more than 7bn records of the movement of traffic records the whereabouts of 16m vehicles per year stretching back six years. Police hope the database will be able to record up to 50m licence plates a day.
Such a “Big Brother” surveillance system is worrying, for reasons I won’t go into here (fer krist’s sake, does anyone actually need to be told of the terrible ramifications? Even home secretary Theresa May, not known as a champion of civil liberties, has ordered that regulation of the Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras should be tightened up. No other “democratic” country routinely tracks innocent motorists in this way.
Yet the police have successfully won a freedom of information tribunal precisely because, they allege, the system is crap. Apparently, if the location of ANPR cameras were revealed publicly, the blind spots would allow crooks to evade the system. DS Neil Winterbourne, in charge of the ANPR cameras for Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command, told the tribunal criminals could evade the cameras by adopting “a particular driving style”, which he did not describe. Maybe because the “particular driving style” does not exist?
The police cited examples where ANPR cameras had been moved or realigned so they couldn’t read registration plates. But they neglected to mention the fact that many roadside cameras are tampered with because drivers think they are speed cameras – there is a very active anti-speed camera movement, with websites like www.speedcam.co.uk which has a map of cameras nationwide and a press release made by Motorists Against Detection (MAD) which describes itself as “the UK’s only direct action anti-speed camera group”, and which claims to have “taken out” 1000 cameras since the groups formation in 2000. Don’t the police think that some of their ANPR cameras may have been messed with by MAD who have mistaken them for speed cameras?
A MADman doing his bit to help us hold onto our civil rights
The UK has a terrible track record re civil liberties. Just look at all the CCTV cameras in our town centres (there for our “protection” apparently, though I have yet to be convinced how an inanimate object will “protect” me when a ruffian is kicking my head in). Ask any American what he thinks of our surveillance culture: no other nation would accept it. Only the British, it would seem (baa baa). And now this secret network of cameras what can follow us everywhere, anytime. Baa baa, my fellow Brits. Baa bloody baa.