Devon & Cornwall Police are on the front line of a fight to keep secret the locations of ANPR cameras within their force area.
A Freedom of Information appeal was upheld by someone asking for details of the locations of all the ANPR cameras in Devon & Cornwall & a tribunal has ordered the force to release the information within 35 days. Devon & Cornwall are saying that it is vital for the fight against crime for the locations to be kept secret, otherwise presumably, people will just drive round a route to avoid the cameras & their effectiveness will be somewhat diminished. Though I’m not sure how they wold avoid the possibility of bumping into a police vehicle which is fitted with ANPR equipment & constantly films all vehicles it passes.
Two things strike me about this. Firstly, I wouldn’t have thought it takes a rocket surgeon to work out the location of ANPR cameras. How many times have you driven past one & thought, well it’s not a speed camera, it’s not a council or private CCTV camera & it’s not one of those cameras put up to measure traffic flow so the travel reports have up-to-date information on where the blockages are, so I wonder what it is?
Secondly, I’ve not been convinced that the potential for abuse of people’s privacy is totally outweighed by the successes reached. I posted a couple of years ago about the potential for intrusive surveillance and over a year ago about the effectiveness of the information held on the ANPR database.Ã‚Â The Guardian reports that the Devon & Cornwall ANPR cameras recorded nearly 79million number plates in 2010. Of those, 255,000 were ‘worthy of further investigation’, or 0.3%. That’s an awful lot of information subject to data protection being harvested every year for such a small return. And most successful ANPR results is pretty small potatos in the overall scheme of things, though I don’t deny there have been some very good results.
Britain is the most highly surveilled country in the world. ANPR cameras are not now just the domain of the law enforcement agencies. Companies like Tesco are using them to record vehicles parking in their car parks. They surround London recording vehicles for the congestion charges. Petrol stations have them on their forecourts trying to identify cars which have previously stoeln petrol from them so they can lock the pump before the driver does it again. How long before the police are paying private operators for a cut of the ANPR harvest?
Have we got it about right, or are we over the top with our obsession to film & record everyone in the hope of catching a few?