The number plates of 100,000 vehicles travelling into south Wales
across the Severn bridges have been scanned by police to
Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) was used in
Operation Utah Wales and West on Thursday. BUT WAS IT LEGAL ?
More than 200 officers from four police forces were involved
as well as workers from immigration, customs and benefits.
It allowed 3,000 number plates an hour to be checked against
databases for wanted people, 80,000 on M4 at the second Severn
crossing and 20,000 using the M48 across the old Severn
Police were able to stop and search 150 vehicles identified
by the database as being suspicious.
What does this kind of intrusive policing mean?
Police are also busily building a national 24×7 vehicle movement database intended to record all
passing number plates, everywhere, at the rate of 50 million a day, records to
be retained for two years. Or actually, six years, or forever – see Spy Blog for details.
“24×7 vehicle movement database” is actually how
the police describe it.
The system doesn't just track named suspects, even hundreds
of thousands or a few millions of named suspects, it tracks all
vehicles, keeping the data so that it can be mined to discover the movements of
people who at some point in the future become suspects. So
effectively, everybody is a suspect.
Is this how we want to be policed?
Following the revelations earlier this week of how the Met
Police is to use the TfL congestion charge ANPR cameras, Home Office minister Mr
McNulty said that the home secretary had exempted TfL and the Met terror-plods
from certain bits of the 1998 Data Protection Act, which would otherwise have
made the scheme illegal.
Today’s activities on the Severn Bridge were carried out by Officers
from Avon and Somerset Police, Gwent Police, South Wales Police and
Gloucestershire Police have been involved, with support from the DVLA,
Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), VOSA, Border and Immigration Agency
(BIA), HM Revenue and Customs, and the Highways Agency.
So this was not even just a police sweep for stolen cars, IT WAS A GESTAPO STYLE DRAGNET.
So for all the innocent travellers, who are ALL now suspects, how
long will your data be kept for? Will the data collected on innocents be
destroyed. Not a hope in hell.
According to the Chief Surveillance Commissioner, Sir Christopher Rose,
the system that is widely used by police forces around the country as a
tool to crack down on vehicles being used in illegal activities.
However this system could be breaching some privacy laws and even human
Yesterday, news sources reported that leaked Home Office documents
reveal plans to extend these powers “for all crime-fighting purposes”. According to this report from the Guardian,
the DTI had expressed reservations over such a move, since it is likely
that associated privacy concerns would slow down proposed road-pricing
schemes that have already attracted public pushback. Earlier this year,
a petition against road-pricing attracted 1.7 million signatures. In his response,
the then Prime Minister Tony Blair assured petitioners that “any
technology used would have to give definite guarantees about privacy
being protected – as it should be.”
The exemptions now mean that the Police can
operate the ANPR and the 24×7 vehicle movement database scheme outside of judicial oversight, which is exactly the
same methods used to make the Gestapo so powerful.