Britain’s system of number plate recognition cameras equates to “one of the biggest data accumulators in the world” and risks a public outcry in contradiction of police mass surveillance, the CCTV administrator has cautioned.
The previous assistant chief constable in command of counterterrorism at the 2012 Olympics, stated that police chiefs faced a hostile response over the possibly illegal way they were making use of their number plate identification cameras.
Frequent rejections by police to disclose data about the extent and scale of the scheme were “not acceptable”, and are expected to embolden a public reaction similar to that encouraged by Edward Snowden’s leaks about data gathering by security forces.
“The political outcome of an ill-conceived scheme that is not exposed is in theory very substantial.” Worries are also reverberated by a government consultant on transparency who cautions that police seem to be unlawfully holding UK number plate data for up seven years.
Frustration has been expressed at the rejection by police of publishing facts about the number and location of automatic number plate recognition cameras, and any indication of their success rate. “Given the large-scale data procurement of such a scheme, we find this shocking,” The Guardian has said.
Greater transparency from the police has openly be called for by a lot of people in relation to the amounts of ANPR cameras positioned and any evidence relating to their effectiveness and success to also be made public knowledge.
The quickly mounting number of ANPR systems has led to a system of a projected 8,300 cameras making 30 million scans of number plates throughout the country every day, or more than 10 billion scans every year.
Civil liberty groups have pointed out that there is no legislative basis for the construction of a national UK number plate identification database, under which data about drivers’ whereabouts is remembered for at least two years.
In a communication issued on Thursday, police have been warned again that “the mining of meta-data being conjoined with other databases throughout the UK can be far more invasive than communication interception is”.
There was a clear argument being made that public authorisation for the system was the police service’s “greatest priority”, as the arrangement had a dubious legal foundation. “Given the enormously effective ANPR operation are you, the police, content that it should remain operating outside of any judicial basis?”
ANPR operators were also warned that they may need approval under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act “once you start using these systems to delve deeper into an individual’s life”.