Are you concerned about the erosion of privacy? One issue that is coming to the fore but has not yet caught the attention of the public is the use of cameras on our roads to monitor our behaviour and potentially to catch criminals.
The cameras used to monitor drivers to ensure they pay the Congestion Charge or ULEZ charges were never intended to be routinely used by the police. Limited access to ANPR cameras was granted for specific investigations some years ago but Sadiq Khan now wants to expand their use. This is being legally challenged by London Assembly Member Sian Berry and an organisation called the Open Rights Group. Ms Berry has said:” I am deeply disappointed that the Mayor has not listened to repeated warnings that sharing the cameras from the expanded clean air zone with the police was a huge increase in surveillance of Londoners that should not be signed off by his office. I have been telling the Mayor since 2019 that sharing this data with the police is wrong and that Londoners must have their say in any decision”.
The expanded use of the cameras might include pictures of vehicles and their occupants and include the use of facial recognition technology which the Met already has available.
The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has laid down guidelines on the use of cameras in public places and in essence there needs to be reasonable justification. There is a Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner who has recently questioned the legality of the use of ANPR cameras to enforce the proposed expanded ULEZ. He said there is limited evidence it would benefit society and therefore its legality is questionable.
Cameras are now being used to enforce Low Traffic Neighbourhood and School Street schemes by some Councils and this has turned into a money-making project in many cases. The profits to be made from such schemes should not be a justification for the use of ANPR cameras but they often are.
Comment: This whole area needs to be more subject to public debate and regulation. Some people think that expanding surveillance would reduce crime although there is limited evidence to support that. Others think that they do not want to live in a surveillance society where your every move is monitored and recorded.
One question is how cost effective such monitoring would be. Accessing ANPR images when specificially required and justified for the investigation of crimes is one thing. But a more general monitoring capability might involve enormous costs even if some of the activity could be automated.
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