posted 5 months ago

Should Police Be Allowed To Store Details Of Innocent Motorists?

Concerns raised over ANPR number plate cameras

The UK’s network of more than more than 9,000 automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras have already stored more than 22 billion images of registration plates on a central database, with 34 million new images being added on a daily basis.

Images are stored on the central database for up to two years and are completely available for the police to access without the need of a warrant. Those images, that are taken by the cameras and then stored, show the front of a vehicle, including the face of the driver.

The ANPR camera system, initially launched back in 2006, are located on most motorways and other major roads, as well as being installed inside some patrol cars. Privacy campaigners have called for a debate on how the information is being used and why it is being accessed, as these cameras capture all motorists, not just those thought to have committed any crimes. 

ANPR cameras store data

Head of steric liaison at the Information Commissioners Office Jonathan Bamford told Sky News: "You've really got to ask the question about the extent of ANPR and the amount of records that it's collecting.

"There are a lot of people going around on their ordinary day to day business doing nothing wrong, innocent individuals - those are being acquired at the rate of 30 million or so a day and being retained for a number of years.

"You end up with a picture where there's not a lot of our lives taking place, which the state can't gain access to in some way. So it's very, very important that there's a proper public policy debate about the extent of surveillance in the United Kingdom."

ANPR cameras store data

The Home Office has spoken out saying that the cameras provide the police with valuable intelligence to help in the prevention of crime. It also added that the camera system follows strict guidelines for use contained in the Data Protection Act and the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice. Stats also show that the database was used by police officers 50% more in 2014 (300,758 times) than 2012. 

Comments from readers on the Daily Mail’s piece regarding the issue state that the majority feel they’ve done nothing wrong therefore see no issue with the stored images, however, there is a number of motorists who feel it is an invasion of privacy. 

With or without these particular ANPR cameras, we are monitored – I’m not going to go all George Orwell’s Big Brother, here, so hear me out. Whether we like it or not, our lives are not actually as private as you might like or like to think – there are cameras everywhere. The majority of us are law abiding citizens, though, so in my opinion, I see no actual issue with the police having access to the images. And, with the increase in risk of a terrorist attack in recent years, I see no issue in upping our security in this way – surely, it should be a comfort to citizens? 

ANPR cameras store data

With all that said, though, the Daily Mail issued a report late last year questioning the legality of the database itself, with independent surveillance camera commissioner Tony Porter claiming it to have “no statutory authority for the creation of the national ANPR database”, with its creation never having been agreed by Parliament. According to the publication the police want to increase the retention of the images to seven years, with the possibility that DVLA could also be granted access in an attempt to catch road tax cheats – odd, though, as it’s now all digital?

What are your thoughts on the matter? Comment below with your opinion.