National ANPR database - guilt by association on the roads

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The Independent has a few more details about the astonishing plan to create a centralised Automatic Number Plate Recognition Database, which will attempt to monitor every vehicle movement on the United Kingdom from next year.

Britain will be first country to monitor every car journey

From 2006 Britain will be the first country where every journey by every car will be monitored
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Published: 22 December 2005

Britain is to become the first country in the world where the movements of all vehicles on the roads are recorded. A new national surveillance system will hold the records for at least two years.

Using a network of cameras that can automatically read every passing number plate, the plan is to build a huge database of vehicle movements so that the police and security services can analyse any journey a driver has made over several years.

This plan seems to get more and more ambitious with every report.

Where was the Public Consultation or the Parliamentary Scrutiny of this invasion of the privacy of millions of innocent road users, not just the movements of suspected criminals ?

We have already tried to warn about the implications of this plan before.

Perhaps the viewers of popular TV programmes like Top Gear and Fifth Gear will start to take some notice of this evil plan.

The network will incorporate thousands of existing CCTV cameras which are being converted to read number plates automatically night and day to provide 24/7 coverage of all motorways and main roads, as well as towns, cities, ports and petrol-station forecourts.

By next March a central database installed alongside the Police National Computer in Hendon, north London, will store the details of 35 million number-plate "reads" per day. These will include time, date and precise location, with camera sites monitored by global positioning satellites.

Already there are plans to extend the database by increasing the storage period to five years and by linking thousands of additional cameras so that details of up to 100 million number plates can be fed each day into the central databank.

Exactly who has sanctioned such an expansion, and on what grounds ?

The scheme is being orchestrated by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) and has the full backing of ministers who have sanctioned the spending of £24m this year on equipment.

More than 50 local authorities have signed agreements to allow the police to convert thousands of existing traffic cameras so they can read number plates automatically. The data will then be transmitted to Hendon via a secure police communications network.

There must be no shared infrastructure or non-police human operators between the secure police communications network and the insecure Local Government systems.

Chief constables are also on the verge of brokering agreements with the Highways Agency, supermarkets and petrol station owners to incorporate their own CCTV cameras into the network. In addition to cross-checking each number plate against stolen and suspect vehicles held on the Police National Computer, the national data centre will also check whether each vehicle is lawfully licensed, insured and has a valid MoT test certificate.

If the Local Authorities and Private Companies link their CCTV systems and ANPR systems to the Police, there will almost certainly be an insecure "backdoor" into the Police National Computer and other intelligence databases.

"Every time you make a car journey already, you'll be on CCTV somewhere. The difference is that, in future, the car's index plates will be read as well," said Frank Whiteley, Chief Constable of Hertfordshire and chairman of the Acpo steering committee on automatic number plate recognition (ANPR).

"What the data centre should be able to tell you is where a vehicle was in the past and where it is now, whether it was or wasn't at a particular location, and the routes taken to and from those crime scenes. Particularly important are associated vehicles," Mr Whiteley said.

The term "associated vehicles" means analysing convoys of cars, vans or trucks to see who is driving alongside a vehicle that is already known to be of interest to the police. Criminals, for instance, will drive somewhere in a lawful vehicle, steal a car and then drive back in convoy to commit further crimes "You're not necessarily interested in the stolen vehicle. You're interested in what's moving with the stolen vehicle," Mr Whiteley explained.

So if a "suspect" vehicle is detected, its vehicle movemnets will be stored for at least two years and longer if it is part of an ongoing police or intelligence services investigation.

This is fair enough.

However, what is totally unacceptable is that any vehicle which appears to be "associated" with the "suspect vehicle" , i.e. one which happens to pass an ANPR camera at about the same time, will also have its movements logged and retained and the driver will have a black mark put on his or her police intelligence file.

The opportunities for millions of innocent people to be caught up in such a dragnet should obvious to everyone except, apparently, to ACPO and NuLabour Ministers.

Mr Whiteley said MI5 will also use the database. "Clearly there are values for this in counter-terrorism," he said.

"The security services will use it for purposes that I frankly don't have access to. It's part of public protection. If the security services did not have access to this, we'd be negligent."

Where are the safeguards which will ensure that this National Database will not be used to monitor, say, the political opponents of the NuLabour government ?


Correct me if I'm wrong, but I read that article as saying ALL readings will be recorded with position and time and stored for two years, not just those that get flagged up as suspect in some way or those that are "associated". So regardless of whether I am suspected of anything my movements get to be recorded for two years (possibly to be extended to five). Some of the news reports on the PC Sharon Beshinivsky investigation seemed to suggest that ANPR was used to trace vehicles used very quickly, so in some areas it must already be in operation.

@ Michael - you are correct, unfortunately.

Each Police force now has at least one Mobile ANPR unit. This should be acceptable to most people, since it is used in combination with a roadside stop, search and arrest team to actually pull illegal drivers or wanted criminals off the road, and they do not store the information from all the innocent motorists who pass by.

That is not what this centralised National ANPR Database is all about.

Read our Automatic Number Plate Recognition Category for some previous blog postings on this subject.

It is unclear if ANPR rather than just conventional CCTV or witness statements played any role tracking down the vehicle hired from Heathrow airport, by the people who tried to rob the travel agency in Bradford and who shot the two women PCs. All the six suspects who were brought to Bradford from London, blocking the M1 motorway, were released without charge, or on bail on unrelated charges.

Theare are an increasing number of fixed camera systems which have ANPR software processing behind them, notably the London Congestion Chareg, the City of London "ring of steel", and the Trafficmaster system on cobalt blue cameras poles by roadsides and on motorway bridges, plus other systems at all our major sea ports.

The 7th of July London suicide bombers seem to have hired a car and drove their bombs to a mainline railway station i.e. one single apparently innocent journey. The National ANPR Database would have been useless in warning of this sort of terrorist attack.

I am very surprised not to have seen more mainstream media coverage of this story since as you point out in your blog, this is being grafted onto existing camera installations without any a consultation, debate or parliamentary process. I assume that the legal situation is such that this is possible to do without legal challenge. If so, that itself is sad since as you point out yourself there is a strong distinction between using technology to catch people committing crimes and creating a comprehensive record of the peoples' movements through mass surveillance. I find it incomprehensible that this is not a national controversy.

What accuracy rates are ANPR systems achieving?

Isn't there a large scope for people being hassled due to misidentification in this system?

Also, couldn't criminals simply get fake foreign plates to circumvent it?

Watching you Brits from the USA.
Very worrisome. Things are going on here as well. Not sure if it's the same in UK but all cellular phones in the US are required to have GPS built in "For emergency use". The cellphone companies are fed the exact locations of all cell phones so long as they are turned on (you don't need to be talking on the phone). There are no restrictions as far as I know as to how this information is logged and disseminated. If you're driving they know within a few meters where you are, which way you're headed, and exactly how fast you're traveling. They know if you're exceeding the speed limits. And they can log it. And they can sell the information to marketers. Law enforcement of course has access to this as well. Also, here in New York State all cars must now have an onboard computer which retains information and must by law be annually connected to government computers supposedly to monitor safety concerns. A logging gps here is the next step of course.

@ Earl - don't forget the "black box flight recorder" chips built into airbags, which record your speed for a few seconds before an accident which sets off the airbag.

There is no E111 mobile phone legislation or infrastructure yet here in the UK , but there are plans for all new vehicles in Europe, from 2009, to be fitted with mobile phone / GPS tracking "eCall" devices which would automatically call and relay your position to the Emergency Services in case of an accident. In order to work, these will also , therefore periodically have to handshake with the mobile phone network (just like a cell phone) and reveal your journey patterns for the vast majority of time when you are driving unharmed.

The Mobile Phone Location Based Services are also getting more accurate with the use of realtime triangulation from neighbouring cell towers i.e. a position fix within a Cell, and not just a rough location by Cell ID (which, in cities is pretty accurate anyway given the high density of base stations).

Remember that all such Mobile Phone Communications Traffic Data is set to be Retained for at least 2 years, on all the innocent mobile phone users in Europe under the new EU Data Retention directive.

Do the advantages of catching a few amateur and unskilled criminals (not any professional serious organised criminals or trained terrorists) really outweigh the massive privacy invasion into the lives of millions of innocent people ?

Let's just think about this one for a moment; police to monitor EVERY journey made by Britain's motorists. Well given that only about 0.1 % of roads are currently equipped with CCTV (rough guess) how are they going to do that? OK they can link other spy camera systems at petrol stations and supermarkets, and town centres, but that would still leave the vast majority of roads and locations uncovered - for the time being, perhaps. Of course it will be these "uncovered roads" that criminals will use. As to the efficacy of ANPR, see this:

I wonder whether this devilish plan is just the aspiration of the surveillance fanatics of ACPO and the Home Office, who haven't really thought it through, or is it official government policy. If it's the latter, then we've got a major problem in this country. This idea would be the biggest step yet towards the Orwellian nightmare of 1984, and would bring us very close to the total survelliance portrayed in that book. It's unfortunate that every one of these new attacks on our freedom are not seen in the whole. Witness Edmund King from the RAC who thinks this proposed expansion of ANPR is a good idea. However, when it's added to ID cards, the Children's database, CCTV on every steet corner, e-borders, mobile phone traffic retention, RFID, the cashless society, and many other infringements of privacy, then a different picture is seen - one in which Britain is rapidly becoming a society of total surveillance where the state knows EVERYTHING about us. We are not quite there yet, but as the data protection commissioner said, we are in danger of sleepwalking into a surveillance society (paraphrased). Well, we're not in danger of it - we are doing it! Bit by bit (and the ANPR proposals are a massive bit) we are getting there, and no-one seems that concerned.

We must ask what is government policy regarding this outrageous proposal. Where has the public consultation been?

If this continues, the data protection commissioner might as well just shut up shop and emigrate.

What does David Cameron think about this one?

How long before spy cameras are in the home and we are all chipped up, like a dog!! There aren't half some bastards in Britain today, mainly in the ranks of NuLabour and the police.

I'm ashamed that Britain is the first country in the world to try this out. I'm ashamed the British people voted for Blair.

'never thought I say it...

In the car wash the other day I saw a Mondeo with (a badly made) set of false plates; "8" made into "3" with a bit of sticky tape; Racer boy through and through... Quite convincing actually; without closer inspection.

But I was impressed: I can sit about in a middle aged BMW kind of way and get heated about my loss of liberties which I *do* care about... But here was someone prepared to fake a numberplate (maybe for neferous stuff; I didnt ask) and I realised what a wet blanket I had become.

So convinced of my own righteousness, so convinced of my understanding of "law", so complacent of my superiority in regarding myself to be a "good citizen" I naturally ignored it. Again...

How ya do

Heres the thin end; as it were. Mr Blair et al don't give the slightest shit what you think about civil liberties; its a bargaining political game. as far as hes concerned.

Mr racer boy.. I salute you; for having the only one amongst us who has any spine at all...


@ jono - there are otherwise harmless old aged pensioner ladies who do exactly the same thing, in order to try to avoid paying the intrusive London Congestion Charge, despite the chance of a fine of up to £1000 for tampering with a vehicle licence plate.

If you feel strongly about the loss of liberty and freedom, and potential security risks which these mass surveillance systems imply, then at least do the "middle aged BMW" "good citizen" thing and write to your Member of Parliament e.g. via WriteToThem

I spoke to several incredibly evasive police regarding Bristol's ANPR including one who asked me to submit a FOI request for HIS benefit!?

Apparently, Avon & Somerset Constabulary now have the capability of
tracking a whopping 250,000 cars a day through 134 fixed cameras & 2 mobile ones. The data is kept for 12 months, 3 years for any flagged as suspicious.

It is linked through the PNC to the DVLA database(s). Since the NIR contains your DVLA number, this is the first part of the mass surveillance system that will be connected via the NIR.

@ Dave - that is interesting, as those are actually shorter Data Retention periods from those in the ACPO Guidance document

Eventually there will be monitoring systems EVERYWHERE!

What is depressing is that when the public are monitored and do something wrong, they get done; yet when the police are monitored, (shown on CCTV laughing while some poor guy dies, on a police station floor, from wounds obviously inflicted while in police custody, for example) nothing happens.

Big Brother is watching you, We obviously don't have it in us to stop him. The claim is always made that only criminals would want to stop erosion of civil liberties. Firstly, we should ask ourselves, what makes a criminal? In Germany in the thirties and early forties, you were a criminal if you sheltered a Jew! So is someone who resists being watched a criminal?

It is easy for the State to start criminalising more and more behaviour, starting, logically, with making it a crime to resist the tide of technology designed to watch you.

Secondly, we should ask, what is reasonable? Obviously we shouldn't allow rapists, muggers and murderers to roam our streets, but a society where it was impossible for them to do so wouldn't be a very pleasant society.

There appears to be a simple relationship in societies. You can have a population with no policing and therefore anarchy and massive amounts of crime. You could also have a Police State with a great deal of repression. There is the same amount of crime, but it is mainly committed by the state. The ideal, as in so many other areas of life, would appear to be somewhere in the middle.

It would help, of course, in the reduction of crime on both sides of the fence, if children were taught, from a very young age, to have empathy and to develop logical patterns of thought. Having talked to many criminals, it is obvious that both of these thought processes are very definately missing. Unfortunately, they often seem to be missing from politicians and bureaucrats as well.

It is already too late, of course; the thin end of the wedge has been inserted. Don't make the mistake of thinking that it has been inserted by people who are any more intelligent, or well informed than you are.

We are sleepwalking into an Orwellian nightmare, the criminals have provided the excuse, but it may make us all criminals in the end.

We have taken the first perilous steps in the erosion of personal freedom and movement in the UK. A Big Brother state is imminent! God help our children’s children!

It's worse than that.
I was stopped in my car for an alleged offence committed by no-one (except in the PCs mind) and although there may be evidence to throw doubt on the case I have no access to prove that two blue vans were on the road with me. Classic abuse of power - CPS with unreleased evidence - use it or lose it.

Yes, I know its turning into a Big Brother society, but if you cant beat them join them . This website has lots of Spy Camera systems which will enable you to keep an eye on those keeping an eye on you!

Very shortly the Avon and Somerset police will be introducing equipment which will monitor the movement of vehicles, and assessing whether the driver of the vehicle is drunk depending upon its movements. Surely this has to be a step in the right direction?

Erk, I didnt post the spy Camera Link..... here it is;

Your article is very interesting however it contains one inaccurate statement;

"These will include time, date and precise location, with camera sites monitored by global positioning satellites."

This doesn't make sense. GPS satellite don't monitor anything, they broadcast signals which allow ground based receivers to determine a location.

@ Ian - That statement is being quoted from the article in The Independent newspaper.

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This United Kingdom based blog attempts to draw public attention to, and comments on, some of the current trends in ever cheaper and more widespread surveillance technology being deployed to satisfy the rapacious demand by state and corporate bureaucracies and criminals for your private details, and the technological ignorance of our politicians and civil servants who frame our legal systems.

The hope is that you the readers, will help to insist that strong safeguards for the privacy of the individual are implemented, especially in these times of increased alert over possible terrorist or criminal activity. If the systems which should help to protect us can be easily abused to supress our freedoms, then the terrorists will have won.

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The 4th Bomb: Tavistock Sq Daniel's 7:7 Revelations - Daniel Obachike

OurKingdom - part of OpenDemocracy - " will discuss Britain’s nations, institutions, constitution, administration, liberties, justice, peoples and media and their principles, identity and character"

Beau Bo D'Or blog by an increasingly famous digital political cartoonist.

Between Both Worlds - "Thoughts & Ideas that Reflect the Concerns of Our Conscious Evolution" - Kingsley Dennis

Bloggerheads: The Alisher Usmanov Affair - the rich Uzbek businessman and his shyster lawyers Schillings really made a huge counterproductive error in trying to censor the blogs of Tim Ireland, of all people.

Matt Wardman political blog analysis

Henry Porter on Liberty - a leading mainstream media commentator and opinion former who is doing more than most to help preserve our freedom and liberty.

HMRC is shite - "dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of the HMRC, who have to endure the monumental shambles that is Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)."

Head of Legal - Carl Gardner a former legal advisor to the Government

The Landed Underclass - Voice of the Banana Republic of Great Britain

Henrik Alexandersson - Swedish blogger threatened with censorship by the Försvarets Radioanstalt (FRA), the Swedish National Defence Radio Establishement, their equivalent of the UK GCHQ or the US NSA.

World's First Fascist Democracy - blog with link to a Google map - "This map is an attempt to take a UK wide, geographical view, of both the public and the personal effect of State sponsored fear and distrust as seen through the twisted technological lens of petty officials and would be bureaucrats nationwide."

Blogoir - Charles Crawford - former UK Ambassodor to Poland etc.

No CCTV - The Campaign against CCTV

Barcode Nation - keeping two eyes on the database state.

Other Links

Spam Huntress - The Norwegian Spam Huntress - Ann Elisabeth

Fuel Crisis Blog - Petrol over £1 per litre ! Protest !
Mayor of London Blog
London Olympics 2012 - NO !!!!

Cool Britannia

Identity Cards Bill clause by clause analysis and comments


Free Gary McKinnon - UK citizen facing extradition to the USA for "hacking" over 90 US Military computer systems.

Parliament Protest - information and discussion on peaceful resistance to the arbitrary curtailment of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, in the excessive Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area around Parliament Square in London.

RIPA Consultations

RIPA Part III consultation blog - Government access to Encrypted Information and Encryption Keys.

RIPA Part I Chapter II consultation blog - Government access and disclosure of Communications Traffic Data

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Recent Comments

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January 2009

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UK Legislation

The United Kingdom suffers from tens of thousands of pages of complicated criminal laws, and thousands of new, often unenforceable criminal offences, which have been created as a "Pretend to be Seen to Be Doing Something" response to tabloid media hype and hysteria, and political social engineering dogmas. These overbroad, catch-all laws, which remove the scope for any judicial appeals process, have been rubber stamped, often without being read, let alone properly understood, by Members of Parliament.

The text of many of these Acts of Parliament are now online, but it is still too difficult for most people, including the police and criminal justice system, to work out the cumulative effect of all the amendments, even for the most serious offences involving national security or terrorism or serious crime.

Many MPs do not seem to bother to even to actually read the details of the legislation which they vote to inflict on us.

UK Legislation Links

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

UK Commissioners

UK Commissioners some of whom are meant to protect your privacy and investigate abuses by the bureaucrats.

UK Intelligence Agencies

intelligence_gov_uk_150.gif - Cabinet Office hosted portal website to various UK Intelligence Agencies and UK Government intelligence committees and Commissioners etc.

0800 789 321 free, confidential, Anti-Terrorist Hotline (use 999 or 112 to report immediate threats)
Anti-terrorism hotline 0800 789 321 free and confidential - use 999 or 112 to report immediate threats.

MI5 encrypted contact web form use 999 or 112 to report immediate threats
Encrypted MI5 web response form NuLabour's "Climate of Fear" is not the same as the real fight against terror.

syf_logo_120.gif Secure Your Ferliliser logo
Secure Your Fertiliser - advice on ammonium nitrate and urea fertiliser security

cpni_logo_150.gif Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure
Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure - "CPNI provides expert advice to the critical national infrastructure on physical, personnel and information security, to protect against terrorism and other threats."

SIS MI6 careers_logo_sis.gif
Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) recruitment.

Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ

Serious Organised Crime Agency - have cut themselves off from direct contact with the public and businesses - no phone - no email

Defence Advisory (DA) Notice system - voluntary self censorship by the established UK press and broadcast media regarding defence and intelligence topics via the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee.

netcu_logo_150.gif National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit
National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit - keeps a watch on animal extremists, genetically modified crop protesters, peace protesters etc.
(some people think that the word salad of acronyms means that NETCU is a spoof website)

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

FreeFarid_150.jpg - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond
Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution - Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Amnesty International's campaign

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

Icelanders are NOT terrorists ! - despite Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling's use of anti-terrorism legislation to seize the assets of Icelandic banks.

No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV


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