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British Cops Creating Nationwide License-Plate Surveillance System

from the orwellian dept

Britain is working hard to maintain its place as a leading surveillance society. Building on the massive "success" of its widespread use of CCTV cameras, police are now installing a system that will use the cameras to track and log car journeys. CCTV cameras across the UK are being added to the system, which automatically recognizes and stores license plate numbers, then adds them, and the location in which they were spotted, to a central database. Police, of course, say the system's great at reducing and solving crime, and one police bigwig says that arrests are up 40% in his area since cops started using the system. But just because arrests have increased, it doesn't necessarily mean crime has been reduced. He further defends the system by saying "innocent people have nothing to fear from the way we use it" -- which all too often is used as an attempt to justify pretty nasty governmental intrusions on privacy and liberty. This system sounds like another part of Britain's attempt to record the lives of its subjects in databases, alongside its database of info on every child in the country, and details of all the internet and phone traffic there. Will people there get up in arms over all this government surveillance, or are they saving their ire only for the likes of Google Street View?

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 May 2009 @ 4:45pm

    'Brazil' and '1984" are becoming reality.

    Both Terry Gilliam and George Orwell predicted the future accurately.

    Much like other quasi-totalitarian places, the UK is one country I'll be avoiding if I can.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 May 2009 @ 5:03pm

    Can't they just kill the funding for this project? I'm sure the Ministry of Silly Walks could put the money to much better use...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Graham, 22 May 2009 @ 5:33pm

    build upon the success

    Seeing as the Contact Point database is such a success, perhaps they could make it a requirement to strap a child to the bonnet of the car when you drive around?

    That way, they could test facial recognition systems on the existing database *and* track cars at the same time!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 May 2009 @ 5:43pm


    count down to when satire is illegal ...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    OMAC, 22 May 2009 @ 5:52pm

    The next step will be to issue speeding citations based on the times logged between cameras.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    AnonCow, 22 May 2009 @ 6:09pm

    No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    SteveD, 23 May 2009 @ 3:20am

    Trust me, if the headline had been 'Google plans to monitor your car journeys!' the middle-aged and middle-classed would have a field day over it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Alan, 23 May 2009 @ 3:41am


    They already do use these cameras on the motorways for catching speeding motorists - just take the distance and divide by the time...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    claire rand, 23 May 2009 @ 5:59am


    works really well against people who have legally registered thier car to their actual address and who make a minor slip.

    or crooks who are stupid enough to use their own car

    does sweet FA for unregistered cars though.

    i can see the point of this and don't have any actual privicy concerns, it makes it possible to prove where a car when, but not who was in it. not i have no concerns with the plod knowing where cars are.

    but it may well lead to more arrests, however that figure alone means nothing. how many *convictions* does it lead to is the correct measure.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2009 @ 7:29am

    Summary execution

    Any public official who uses the "If you're clean, why do you care?" argument should be summarily executed. This is a place where violent left wing extremists and violent right wing extremists should be able to come together with ordinary citizens in serving a common noble cause.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    David, 23 May 2009 @ 12:28pm

    I not like!

    I don't like the sound of this at all. It was kept petty quiet, which is very ominous and I DEFINITELY don't like the idea of logs being kept for two years. Wacky Jacqui loves it of course. The whole surveillance thing is getting completely out of hand. Wonder if the EU will step in, as they did on innocent folks' DNA being kept unecessarily by the UK plod?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Lucretious (profile), 23 May 2009 @ 12:37pm

    I'm constantly amazed at how much invasion of their privacy Brits are willing to put up with.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Hush, 23 May 2009 @ 2:59pm

    Re: Speed Citations...

    Actually this has been going on for a number of years. The police have been linking speed recognition cameras together over stretches of road and timing you entering and exiting the stretch. If it deems that you exited the area too soon you are sent a fine and get 3 points on your license. They call then Average Speed Cameras.

    This country is getting beyond a joke - I will be emergrating at the earliest opportunity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Hush, 23 May 2009 @ 3:02pm

    Re: I not like!

    This was the first I had heard of this project - disgusted to find out that it is already in operation. What happened to public consultation. This government is running amok - roll on the elections and the chance to change to a new corrupt government to make our lives a misery.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Jim Arnold, 24 May 2009 @ 9:49am

    Not good

    This is the first I have heard of this. They are obviously keeping it very hush hush, to stop public outcry. This is an invasion of privacy and will more than likely develop into something much larger. As they will now know when we are away from our homes, I wonder if they will do more to police the area while we are away... Jim - uk web hosting / reseller hosting

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Proletariat, 24 May 2009 @ 1:19pm

    Soviet Britain

    What is happening with you English (or is it Brit's or UK'ers)?

    This monitoring is outrageous. At least in America when we are watched, we arent told about it!

    The sovereign is out of control.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    John Conner, 24 May 2009 @ 1:34pm

    Just wait until Skynet is self aware.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Runner, 24 May 2009 @ 7:03pm

    I'm already trying to run over rooftops! That way I can run information myself, thank you Mirror's Edge!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 May 2009 @ 7:10pm

    You drive your car on the public street, noting plates shouldn't be an issue. it isn't like you have an expectation of privacy in a public place. If a police man was on each street corner making a list of plates would it be different?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Techsupoort, 24 May 2009 @ 11:42pm


    I'm constantly amazed at how much invasion of their privacy Brits are willing to put up with.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Sos, 24 May 2009 @ 11:57pm


    How is your number plate (which you do not own incidently) private?
    And how is this any different to say keeping a record of the locations that your credit card is used? Or your public transport pass?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    David, 25 May 2009 @ 2:20am

    Re: Privacy

    It's not different, Sos - all are somewhat objectionable and together become quite unacceptable and paranoia inducing. And the reason for that is that the 'For our own good' line is rubbish! That would be ok if the legal system here was somehow trustworthy but everything here seems to prove the opposite. They can survey as much as they like if the legal system worked, but when you see the ridiculous things some people get into trouble over and the serious things that some people DONT get into trouble over - or where stupid harmless things are illegal and where really nasty and destructive or prejudiced stuff is still considered acceptable - that is when you start to worry about them having too much power to track you and watch you. Because the trust is totally gone. I dont know what it is like elsewhere in the world - but that's the UK! I live in the UK and i am also constantly amazed at how much invasion of privacy we are happy to put up with here. And also how thoughtlessly accepting people as a whole tend to be of this kind of stupidity from above. And it has to be as a whole, because what can a few people getting angry do about it? Anonymous Coward - you are right in your first comment. Dont bother coming here!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    huckle, 25 May 2009 @ 7:35am

    It's cool with me

    I'm British and I don't mind that much. There are very strict laws about who can actually view the data, when it has to be destroyed, etc., and I trust the police force to be as diligent with the information they collect as possible.

    I am not a fan of the DNA database - or rather the unwillingness to remove data on it when people are either not charged or are proven innocent, but the EU is sorting that out for us.

    I think people just need to relax about the whole thing myself. Just as the "you should have nothing to hide" ethos is abhorrent, if you don't want to be seen out in public, don't go out in public! I don't care if My friends or complete strangers see me walking down the street, why should an authorised police officer looking to identify a missing person or wanted person?

    The biggest argument against the no. plates recognition system is cost, not invasion of privacy. I can happily sit on a street corner and note down which cars pass me - what difference is there if an automated system does it?

    What I do actually disagree with is the blocking of sites which the govt/police reckon I shouldn't be seeing. But I am ok with them having access to my records to see if I am looking at sites which may mean I am committing a crime, if that makes sense.

    Anyway, will all you Americans stop call us Brits idiots? If we are making mistakes then they are ours to make so butt out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Bill in Detroit, 25 May 2009 @ 8:44am

    Re: accuracy

    Convictions are only half the goal. At the arrest DNA etc is collected ... never to be expunged. Only to be 'lost' (we don't have to expunge all copies of 'lost' data, do we?)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    zerojj, 25 May 2009 @ 11:46am

    are you really surprised?

    Many police departments here in the good ole' US of A (Texas) are already doing platescanning. Cameras mounted on patrol cars (ala Google Earth) can OCR plate numbers and run it against a database to help law enforcement recover stolen vehicles or track down warrant subjects. You can bet that there are no federal guidelines on how long the data is stored or to what extents the information is used for.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    batch, 25 May 2009 @ 1:26pm

    haven't they heard of counterfeit license plates?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Terry Wagar, 25 May 2009 @ 3:37pm

    open murder conspiracy in portland oregon

    Eric Carlson and Joan Wagar, A,K,A, Doubleclick and Mrs Dash,( yes those are there nicknames they gave each other.) admitted to poisoning me while I was a plasma donor back in 2005.
    Eric Carlson pedofied me behind prison walls and then framed me as a pedophile on march 26th 2007, I caught the crime on a audio recorder I put in Joan's purse.
    there were people in authority helping them with this and nobody in authority will help they pretend nothing happened and refuse to investigate this.
    Eric Carlson changed his hair color and his name to Gashel and Clackamas Walmart was hiding him from my Family by pretending He's someone else but this is not hidden, only ignored by the authority's and media
    I'm disabled from being poisoned and the hospitals refuse to admit I'm poisoned.
    My Family is in danger from these people and I have no other recourse but to make these charges public.
    My name is Terry Wagar,I'm from Portland Oregon and I'm backing up these charges.
    I have been threatened with harassment charges by a Sargent Walker, She is a Portland Police officer stationed at the OHSU hospital, for the non crime of reporting a multi murder conspiracy within that hospital.
    They dont give a s4!t Joan and Eric was poisoning a plasma donor!
    And how many god damn John Ray's in authority are there in portland oregon!
    You damn serial killer.
    Where did Mrs Dash keep her stash? in A Garlic Salt Shaker!
    What did Doubleclick do with his Dick? You Pedo!
    Why you hiding A body double for Clackamas Walmart?
    Cover this up Sgt Walker!
    We have our Witch hunts right here in Portland Oregon, and they use it to justify murder.
    The Authority's call it "Pedofied" it means they just run around spreading rumors about someone they want dead, they label that person A pedophile, turning hundreds of people against that person overnight.
    It makes it easy to get volunteer's to lie for them so they can murder off that person.
    And no one complains, thinking to themselves "One less pedophile to worry about.

    It's A great responsibility to report A crime the Authority's don't want reported!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    giafly, 26 May 2009 @ 1:22am

    All Protesters are Guilty.

    "innocent people have nothing to fear from the way we use it". Therefore people who say they DO have something to fear are admitting their guilt. Better lock them up before they commit additional crimes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    CJ, 26 May 2009 @ 7:33am

    I like how we assume the US Government isn't doing the same bloody thing already. How we pretend that the warrantless wire-tapping is the complete extent of the government's secret syping on the populace. Let's face it, we're all being spied on, no government really cares about the privacy of its citizens when it comes down to it, and in the end I don't know that it makes any difference.

    Crime doesn't really decrease, we're probably not really any more or less likely to be mistakenly harrassed over something we didn't do. If anything, we probably have more privacy because the government is trying to wade through an insane amount of discovery on every person in the country.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    another mike, 26 May 2009 @ 12:45pm

    nothing to hide

    "If you're not claustrophobic you won't mind being locked in this tiny box." Tell them that next time they trot out the "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" bit. As a bonus, tell them that if they're not arachnophobic either, you'll give them something to keep them company.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    ED, 23 Sep 2009 @ 10:58pm

    Re: 'Brazil' and '1984" are becoming reality.

    The UK isn't heading towards a becoming police state - it already is one.

    Top 10 list of police state measures:

    Local councils in the UK now put RFID tags in rubbish bins to monitor the amount of waste created by each household with a view to enforcing a "recycling tax."

    The UK government has now put a RFID chip into passports and the Oyster card records details on every journey made.

    Drivers will have an RFID chip installed in their car and be forced to pay for every mile they drive.

    Do you want to make your voice heard? Well, if you want to protest in the centre of London you now have to apply for permission from the police.

    The government now plans to install X-Ray cameras in a bid to combat "terrorism".

    Children can now have their biometric data taken from them at school without their parents consent.

    There are now cameras that shout orders at people who "misbehave" in the street.

    Schools justify the complete loss of privacy for children by saying it cuts down on vandalism and bullying.

    Police now want powers to take DNA samples from people on the street for petty offences such as speeding or dropping litter.

    Under section 44 of the Terrorism Act police officers can search you without the need to show that an offence is being committed. Not only that, but even if you are innocent you can be held for 28 days without charge.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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