Author Topic: Big Brother cameras to track millions of innocent drivers  (Read 507 times)

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Big Brother cameras to track millions of innocent drivers
« on: July 24, 2007, 11:38:33 am »
Big Brother cameras to track millions of innocent drivers

Labour has drawn up secret 'Big Brother' plans to hand the details of routine journeys taken by millions of innocent motorists to the police, it has emerged.

Officers will be able to trawl private information recorded by traffic cameras when investigating even the most minor crimes, according to papers made public by an astonishing Government blunder.

Once the controversial national road-pricing scheme is under way, short journeys to the shops, work or to visit friends will all be logged.

Anybody whose vehicle was merely following a car linked to a crime could come under suspicion and be asked to account for their movements.

The internal documents, released in error, reveal the planned laws have already caused a deep Cabinet rift and critics said they were further evidence of a 'creeping surveillance state'.

Under the road-pricing plans, motorists will have their journeys tracked by the automatic number plate recognition cameras, which read and record vehicle movements, and be charged based on how far they travel.

By giving police 'bulk access' to this data, forces will be able to effectively track the movements of all motorists who pass the cameras, of which 1,500 already exist in the capital. A further 50 are operated by the DVLA at sites across the country.

The Government papers reveal the tactics which could be used to solve crimes, using the number-plate information. They include 'convoy analysis', where drivers spotted following a known criminal come under police suspicion.

Ministers are already braced for a huge revolt by motorists already opposed to the road-charging plan, which attracted more than 1.8million protest signatures on a Downing Street petition.

Now officials have warned the police data policy - due to be included in the next Queen's Speech - will be 'condemned as further evidence of an encroaching Big Brother approach to policing and security'.

The movement of pedestrians is already tracked by 4.2million CCTV cameras - the largest number in the world. Now car journeys will be similarly monitored.

Details emerged amid the announcement of a deal to allow police to be given live access to London's congestion charge cameras - allowing them to track all vehicles entering and leaving the zone.

Security Minister Tony McNulty said it would be limited to anti-terror officers only, who will be exempted from the parts of the Data Protection Act which protect the privacy of motorists. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith blamed the 'enduring vehicle-borne terrorist

threat to London' for the change, in the wake of last month's failed bomb attacks.

But, in a remarkable error, internal Home Office papers laid bare future plans to dramatically widen the powers beyond anti-terror operations - and nationwide. They were released alongside a statement placed in the House of Commons library.

These revealed the London agreement was merely 'an immediate solution pending the introduction of planned Government agreement on proposed legislation which would allow the bulk transfer of automatic number plate recognition data from third parties to the police for all crime-fighting purposes.'

The move is being contested by Douglas Alexander, the former Transport Secretary who is now International Development Secretary.

He argues it will intensify road charging anger, once drivers realise they will be placed under surveillance as well as being hit in the pocket. But the Home Office is determined to press ahead, the papers reveal. They read: 'The Home Office had proposed to legislate for the transfer of bulk ANPR data in the Criminal Justice Bill.

'However, Tony McNulty has now agreed to delay these measures until the third parliamentary session as collective policy agreement has not been secured in time for publication of the Bill.

'The Department for Transport has expressed concern about the potential for adverse publicity relating to publication of the draft Local Transport Bill, and plans for local roads pricing. We will continue to work closely with the Department for Transport to minimise the impact on their policies. '

The Government is expected to announce pilots for the road-pricing plan shortly. LibDem home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg said: 'With this unintended act of open government, the disingenuous attitude of ministers towards public fears about a creeping surveillance state is revealed for all to see.

'No wonder Douglas Alexander was keen to tone down these proposals since he must know that public resistance to a road-charging scheme will go through the roof if it is based on technology which poses a threat to personal privacy.

'The Government appears to be using the London cameras as a Trojan Horse to secure unprecedented access to information on car drivers' movements without full public scrutiny or debate.'

Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil liberties group Liberty, said: 'It is one thing to ask the public for special measures to fight the grave threat of terrorism, but when that becomes a Trojan horse for mass snooping for more petty matters it only leads to a loss of trust in government.'

Whilst the innocent will have their privacy violated the criminals will use vehicles with cloned or stolen number plates, unregistered vehicles or foreign registered plates.

An easy way to set-up selected individuals.


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