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back to article Number-plate spycams riddled with flaws, top cop admits

UK Police have been granted the right to continue to keep secret the locations of controversial automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras, after winning a freedom of information tribunal - even as they admit that criminals know the whereabouts of some of the spycams. However, as reported by the Guardian, which has been …

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Big Brother

In Aus they are mobile

They are fitted in police cars. Some states are now looking at ending the requirement for a tax disc (aka the rego sticker) as road traffic police can tell whether your car is legal without having to stop and check.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: In Aus they are mobile

They are here too in the unmarked and high speed cars. We have our discs on display so that traffic wardens can screw as well if our tax has run out.

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Stop

Re: In Aus they are mobile

As previous poster said, but also the police haven't needed to see the tax disc, driving licence or insurance papers for years now.

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Re: In Aus they are mobile

Traffic wardens record the numbee of the VED disc when issuing a PCN as "identity evidence", the serial number of the VED (being held on the DVLA computer) is a good indicator that the reg no a PCN was issued to is actually the vehicle involved - itr helps eliminate false claims of Registration plate cloning.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: In Aus they are mobile

Ah but there's also an offence of failing to DISPLAY a tax disc......

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Big Brother

Re: In Aus they are mobile

Here in the UK, I wonder how many "not insured" stops are being undertaken by the police, despite them being warned at outset that the motor insurance data always has a lag (24hrs for most drivers).

I would also note that the survielance uses of the system were never discussed when it was being set up, under the auspices of the 4th EU Motor Directive (speed up cross country insurance claims, and make a dent in uninsured drivers)

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Re: In Aus they are mobile

Most police traffic cars also have apnr cameras directly linked to check your tax, insurance, mot status while they drive behind you.

Big Brother is watching you

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Re: In Aus they are mobile

Umm, haven't had a rego sticker supplied to me for 3 years now, I know they used to call WA "Wait Awhile" cause we were so backwards, but where are you from, Tasmania?

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Re: In Aus they are mobile

Big Brother is out there

Worse is that the tax disc is now obviously an out of date concept kept going because no one has the courage to scrap it.

Tax fuel and only fuel (more fuel I use, more I pollute, more tax I pay).

Have an insurance disk and/or MOT disk if some people think that is worth while (I don't).

A car can be driven without insurance. I can drive a car I don't own and am covered for doing so. The owner of that car may not have insurance in their own name but that doesn't make mine any less valid.

Frankly the police (and politicians) should realise that most motorists are going to and from work or doing work because there is no public transport alternative (we don't all live in London!) and that by taxing, hounding and abusing us they aren't making friends. Frankly if I was to see a policeman on fire in the street I wouldn't even spit on him to help him.

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Thumb Down

In North America mobiles are used for parking and stolen car infractions

Every night, in major North American cities, city/police vehicles drive up and down streets scanning parked vehicle number plates.

The scanned number plates are converted in to plain text and checked against main frame databases for infractions and theft. They also conveniently, for the police, issue parking infraction notices.

Additionally, the numbers are checked against licence and insurer databases to ensure they are current with formalities.

At least on cold nights in Toronto, the operators are usually too lazy/cold to get out and manually scan plates that cannot be read.

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Mushroom

Re: In Aus they are mobile

<blockquote>A car can be driven without insurance. I can drive a car I don't own and am covered for doing so. The owner of that car may not have insurance in their own name but that doesn't make mine any less valid.</blockquote>

No, you are confused - if you drive a car that you don't own, and you are "covered" for doing so by your own policy, then you ARE insured. But - and here's the rub - the car still doesn't meet the insurance requirements of Section 144A Road Traffic Act 1988 (added by Section 22 Road Safety Act 2006, which requires the car's registered keeper to have insurance identifying that car by its VRM or to declare it as being kept off-road by a Statutory Off-Road Notification - "SORN") - and if you don't have your own original certificate of insurance with you, the officer who stops you WILL exercise his powers under S.165A RTA 1988 to seize the vehicle and take it away... and you will be walking.

You will have no comeback whatsoever, and the only bonus will be that, if you later produce your certificate of insurance within 7 days at a police station nominated by you at the time the car was seized, you won't be prosecuted under S.143 for "no insurance".

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Anonymous Coward

Bootnote

And there was me thinking that the evading tactics would be to drive close behind / cut in close in front of a lorry at the camera sites.

Not that I would employ those tactics, no, not even where the 'safety camera partnership' hide their van just over the crest of a hill. No, not ever ossifer.

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Re: Bootnote

Right up behind a lorry would do it, and so would driving between two lanes. Or even changing lanes I believe, but you need to know exactly where to change lanes.

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Re: Bootnote

Changing lanes - are you thinking of the myth around SPECS? Got some bad news for you on that one...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bootnote

Awesome; so you're happy to dodge road tax by cutting up or tailgating trucks in areas where there *might* be a police patrol, and then try to use the word 'safety' to ironically condemn their efforts.

Great driving.

Hope you get caught.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bootnote

That's a tad naive isn't it? It's not just used for tax disc / insurance monitoring.....

And if they do see you don't have a tax disc - what are they going to do? Summon the nearest traffic car ? Have the camera gantry collapse on your car?

This is just the excuse.

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Headmaster

Re: Bootnote

Not so much "myth" more "former feature".

As I understand it, the legal basis or SPECS originally required fixed pairs of cameras, which was fine on single lane roads but not where there were two or more lanes. The rules were subsequently changed to allow the measurement to be from one-of-several to one-of-several.

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Stop

Re: Bootnote

"And if they do see you don't have a tax disc - what are they going to do? Summon the nearest traffic car ? Have the camera gantry collapse on your car?

This is just the excuse."

Errr.... send a letter and potentially summons to the registered owner's address?

C'mon: If you don't have a remotely open mind to the possibilities, why even engage in debate?

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Re: Bootnote

@Ian Johnston - aye, it was more an administrative type-approval thing. It wasn't that the cameras couldn't do it, it was just that it couldn't be enforced when they did. A few bits of paperwork later, and they can still get you.

Seeing as how SPECS tend to be sensibly deployed (e.g. at roadworks) I don't mind them. There are one or two roads littered with them and one has to wonder why.

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Re: Bootnote

@Ian

I remember when the SPECS system was installed around 2001 on the M62 near Warrington (the stretch near IKEA / Junction 9)

Was a stretch of 5-6 cameras for a few miles on the Liverpool side approach to the M6 covering 5-6 lanes.

Funny thing was, that for at least the first 7-8 months of operation, the widening work meant that at least one lane was on a contraflow. A crash barrier was in the way.

Also, at the time I was driving a volvo 340, the front mounting point for the number plate is under the front bumper, pointing slightly down (and it's quite common to 'nudge' the plate when parking in some kinds of bays, pushing it further from vertical) and I'm not sure on the 'range', but I can't see it being that easy for the cameras to read.

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Re: Bootnote

speed enforcement at roadworks.... I OBJECT HUGELY!!!!!

I am not callous enough to want to see roadwork people die BUT...

a) My son crosses a 30mph road on his way to school. Despite dozens of accidents and the local council recording speeds of over 70mph on their smiley cam the police will not and do not set up a speed trap there. If my son can cross a road like that protected by his cotton shirt with the approval of the police then why can't a roadworker in a a huge great earth mover the other side of a several ton concrete block (and often in a nearby field) with a hard hat and luminous shirt manage without a host of expensive speed cameras enforcing a 30 or 40mph speed limit?

b) The roadworks protected by these are usually in fields near the road you are on and not even on the same road.

c) When there is contraflow caused by the roadworks we have a 40mph (or less) limit when in normal circumstances 60mph is considered fine.

Let us face it the police use speed cameras to raise revenue for the exchequer. Whether these are at roadworks, on that dual carriageway or the quiet country back road. They NEVER use them to create a safe environment. Exactly the same is true of these other cameras - they are not about law enforcement or making things safer they are purely and simply to make money.

The motorist is still the governments favourite cash cow and will remain so until ALL the countries motorists decide to not use their vehicles for a week. It would only take a week to bring the country to its knees, No deliveries to shops, no workers at work (90+% can't get to work without cars), no fuel duty, no fine revenue... the country would be a disaster (erm, even more than it is now).

It would be good to make a statement that we are sick of it.

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Re: Bootnote

Peterborough had that on the A1 just outside the gate to RAF Wittering.

They put a cone in the emergency vehicle access gap in the central reservation and a single "roadworks 50mph" sign was there all winter which was completely ignored. On the first bank holiday a speed camera was added. Profitable!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bootnote

a) My son crosses a 30mph road on his way to school. Despite dozens of accidents and the local council recording speeds of over 70mph on their smiley cam the police will not and do not set up a speed trap there. If my son can cross a road like that protected by his cotton shirt with the approval of the police then why can't a roadworker in a a huge great earth mover the other side of a several ton concrete block (and often in a nearby field) with a hard hat and luminous shirt manage without a host of expensive speed cameras enforcing a 30 or 40mph speed limit?

The concrete blocks and speed limits at roadworks are there for different, but related purposes. The concrete blocks are there to protect the workforce from (a) the first driver to have an accident and (b) the drivers following who instinctively swerve around the first vehicle. The speed limit is to reduce the damage and injury done to the drivers themselves when they have their accident

Both things are necessary IMHO. When my father was ill recently, the hospital bed opposite was occupied by a 22-year old road worker who had spent the best part of 8 months recovering from physical injuries received from a car that crashed into and through 'his' roadworks. Unfortunately he was severely brain damaged and needed 24-hour a day care, so was never going to 'recover' as such. Perhaps it was his fault for not being a bulldozer driver?

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Re: Bootnote

@Dave 15 - That's not an argument for no SPECS at roadworks, that's an argument for SPECS at a site where you can prove the risk. Speak to your councillor, ask the council for the accident stats, contact local road safety groups (if any).

You'll hear no argument form me on badly sited cameras, but I think roadworks are good place to have them. And maybe near school. And junctions with a history of speed related accidents. And...you get the idea.

I also think that after the camera has been there for a while, analysis should be done (allowing for regression to the mean) to check it is actually providing any benefit. If not, time to remove it and figure out something else.

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There's "retained" and "backed up"

Sorry but "more than 7 billion" and "some 7.6 billion" are so vague as to be meaningless, or even he same thing in practice. I suggest that the information is retained for all time, just not necessarily on the "live" database.

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Deployment

Originally the police had difficulty deploying ANPR since the equipment was rather large and they couldn't find a big enough bush.

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Anonymous Coward

Nevermind the gaps.

Please explain to me, why is storing the whereabouts of anybody in a car, anywhere in the country, for half a dozen years, acceptable to keep tabs on just a small fraction of bad apples in the populace?

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Re: Nevermind the gaps.

If you've done nothing wrong, you've nothing to hide.

Now bend over and let us install this personal monitoring device. It's for your own good, you know.

And don't forget: THINK OF THE CHILDREN !!!!

</sarcasm>

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FAIL

Re: Nevermind the gaps.

Rearrange the following words into a well known phrase or saying:

State and Police.

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Re: Nevermind the gaps.

Perhaps because you don't know who the bad apples are?

If you actually trusted the police not to abuse this dataset (and go trawling when they feel bored) then it might be quite re-assuring to know that it might be possible to follow things up when new evidence crops up a few years after a case has gone cold.

The cost of keeping such records is just a few discs. (I assume, for legal purposes, that you would want to retain the images and not just the registration numbers.) You don't need to clear up many cases to justify that cost. In fact, a single "cleared up" serious crime might be enough to justify it.

Contrariwise, if such evidence became available and it transpired that the local plod had deleted the critical records a month earlier to save having to splash out £100 on a new hard disc, what would be the reaction of the general public?

Obviously the system could be abused and then you'd have to add in the "cost" of such abuse and you'd need to be clearing up a whole lot more cases before the privacy trade-off is worth it. Your comment, however, appears to take the position that such abuse could never be prevented (or its costs mitigated by the benefits of solving cold cases). I'm cynical enough to understand that position, but I hardly think we can take it as read.

What auditing and procedural checks would have to be in place before you'd accept that the system was "unlikely" to be abused and that the benefits to society outweighed the costs? If you answer "it can't be done" then I'm afraid you've just disqualified yourself from the 21st century. Criminals will use every piece of technology they can to pursue their aims. Society would be daft to deny its own police any access to comparable tools. If you don't trust the police, the solution is to fix the police, not to tie their hands.

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Flame

Re: Nevermind the gaps.

What kind of person downvotes this eminent sensibility?

If you pine for the Beautiful Uniformed People of the Great Totalitarianisms, you know where to find them.

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Re: Nevermind the gaps.

It's also an easily anonymous-able dataset as without the numberplate each record is just an indication of where a unique vehicle was at a particular time. This anonymous data would then be useful for all sorts of traffic management and planning solutions, and as long as the cameras aren't ubiquitous the datasets wouldn't be traceable to private residences.

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Re: Nevermind the gaps.

@Ken Hagan - I put it to you that the potential societal cost of a police state where the rule of law is applied absolutely and without humanity, far outweighs the cost of the very small number of toe-rags we have.

We seem hell-bent on sacrificing our own freedoms to catch (relatively) minor criminals, yet let big league criminals get away with it (money launderers, tax evaders etc). Maybe that's because those criminal operate in old-boy stratosphere where us peasants are meaningless trifles who should not have the temerity to object to our servitude?

If we store the data it will leak and it will be abused.

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Re: Nevermind the gaps.

To add to my previous - has anyone analysed same-cost alternatives?

Cost of total observation: £X billions

Savings per year (if any): £Y billions

Actual cost: X - Y = £Z billions

What else could Z be used for? What are the effects of Z being spent on (say) flesh-and-blood traffic plod? Or outreach projects? Or bringing back playing fields? Or community initiatives? Or improving the services prisons can provide (to cut recidivism)? Or any number of other thing.

Before we spunk £Z billions at this problem, I'd like to know we are spurting it n the correct direction.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Nevermind the gaps.

Police State? Get real. Try telling anyone now living in Britain who has escaped the horrors of a real Police State and they'll certainly put what we take for granted into context. I'm not sure how the likes of ANPR records impact my freedom to travel round the country. Sure, my movements may be dumbly logged on a system somewhere for several years, but that's a far hysterical cry from someone actively monitoring me. Capability is not intent; just because Big Brother has eyes doesn't mean he's watching you.

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Re: Nevermind the gaps.

@NightFox - The problem is, once you have such a system in place you have to trust that the current administration will not abuse it and every administration that follows.

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FAIL

Re: Nevermind the gaps.

"@Ken Hagan - I put it to you that the potential societal cost of a police state where the rule of law is applied absolutely and without humanity, far outweighs the cost of the very small number of toe-rags we have."

You can't equate a number plate storage system to a police state.

Ever.

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Megaphone

Re: Nevermind the gaps.

Its acceptable for as long as we do nothing about it.

We Brits whine a lot but tend not to do anything about issues - and so the creeping liberty destroying things keep happening because they KNOW we will do nothing about it.

Start by lobbying your MP about it - then support parties which oppose such abuse - my support is going to the UK Pirate Party - http://www.pirateparty.org.uk/party/

DISCLOSURE : I have written to my MP asking how the ACPO (a private org) can install networks of monitoring cameras without legislation.

If this is the last post I ever make you know that my door was kicked in and I was hauled off for "rehabilitation".

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Re: Nevermind the gaps.

@Psyx - "You can't equate a number plate storage system to a police state"

It could, however, be a very useful tool of a police state. I don't see why we should risk giving them that tool.

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Big Brother

@Ken Hagen - Re: Nevermind the gaps.

"Perhaps because you don't know who the bad apples are?"

Right, so we should *ALL* be treated as potential bad apples, then?! Forget about presumption of innocence, forget about the Right to go about my lawful business without let or hindrence, forget about civil liberties, it's *far* better that The State can track us and monitor us and know everywhere we go.

As for trusting the Police not to abuse this dataset, remember Operation Ore? How many innocent people were accused by those Police, based on no actual evidence, of downloading kiddie porn and then coerced into accepting a Caution so they wouldn't be dragged through the Courts, not realising that that would leave them with a record that would follow them evermore any time they wanted a CRB check? Are these the Police you want to trust?

Remember: Vote Fascist for a Third Glorious Decade of Total Law Enforcement!

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Re: Nevermind the gaps.

Please explain to me, why is storing the whereabouts of anybody in a car, anywhere in the country, for half a dozen years, acceptable to keep tabs on just a small fraction of bad apples in the populace?

You say that as if you were, or ever will be, given a choice. It amazes me how this kind of mass surveillance can just happen, with little to no publicity, oversight, or referendum, but when PIPA turns up everyone goes batshit fucking insane.

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Re: @Ken Hagen - Nevermind the gaps.

Fair point, and one with which I hold a degree of sympathy, but it does cut both ways. I know of one person, accused of a crime, and the police used this information to verify that he was NOT the culprit.

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Re: Nevermind the gaps.

Obviously the system could be abused and then you'd have to add in the "cost" of such abuse and you'd need to be clearing up a whole lot more cases before the privacy trade-off is worth it. Your comment, however, appears to take the position that such abuse could never be prevented (or its costs mitigated by the benefits of solving cold cases). I'm cynical enough to understand that position, but I hardly think we can take it as read.

Every single previous privilege and system we have given to the police has been abused. It's not a stretch of the imagination to believe that this might also be abused, is it? Are the anti-terror laws that we absolutely must have to stop the country immediately exploding used more against actual terrorists, or ordinary punters/protestors?

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Re: Nevermind the gaps.

@Ken Hagan. You ask the question 'what would be the reaction of the general public?'

The answer is simple, what ever the MSM tells them it should be.

I too am very cynical, especially when a private, non accountable company is running what is supposed to be a public police force paid for by the public.

Abuse the system - never, like hell.

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Big Brother

@Psyx - Re: Nevermind the gaps.

"You can't equate a number plate storage system to a police state. Ever."

Balderdash.

That's where it starts. It's very unlikely to be where it finishes.

Remember the last Labour Government wanted to put ANPR cameras at every major intersection and automatically issue speeding tickets if you got from A to B quicker than they thought you should have.

It would also have given them the ability to track everyone, everywhere and that is the sort of thing that the Stasi et al would have loved! It's all very well starting out with good intentions, but remember where that road leads...

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Anonymous Coward

@Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

And on the flip side, I know someone persecuted relentlessly because they had PROOF he was there at the scene of a major crime.eye witness statements (he was the wrong colour!) seem impossible to comprehend when they have a fucking number plate match.

The worst of all when they were proven wrong the arrogant bastards won't even admit they made a mistake, you have to get drag them through the courts to even get an apology.

Mistakes happen, but the true test is if they admit them and try to prevent them. They have a tough job, but it's no excuse for egomania.

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Anonymous Coward

"how the ACPO (a private org) can install networks of monitoring cameras without legislation."

That's a privately owned company called ACPO Limited, if you please, where ACPO = Association of Chief Police Officers.

That's the same ACPO Limited that was running the "anti terror" operation where a plod called Mark Kennedy (amongst other things) was an undercover agent for several years in legitimate peaceful protest organisations. Arguably he also acted as "agent provocateur", but when his actions led to the arrest and trial of dozens of innocent people, he apparently eventually had a change of heart and the trial collapsed. You can read about it elsewhere. Accounts will vary depending on the source.

There's more, but I don't have time.

You obviously have lots of time if you think writing your MP will change much. MPs don't work that way any more. But thanks for at least showing an interest, and for the post here.

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Big Brother

Re: Nevermind the gaps.

"It could, however, be a very useful tool of a police state. I don't see why we should risk giving them that tool."

That's a massive and illogical leap you've just made in order to provoke an extreme reaction.

Giving our troops weapons could be a very useful tool for gunning down protesters.

Giving our police tasers could be a very useful tool for torturing prisoners.

Giving our judges the power to instruct juries could be a very useful tool in subverting the entire legal process.

See: Any change in the way our system works can be portrayed as a gross infringement on rights. Yet we have more rights today than 99.5% of the planet, including what our grandparents ever had.

I'm as much about civil rights and personal freedom as the next person... more so, in fact. But this... this is just a measure to nick pikey bastards who are skipping on paying the tax that you and I have to.

Make me put a GPS linked to a government database and live tracking system and I might think about taking it to the streets, but the current system is just a way to help prevent people defrauding the government, with the very rare incident of it being used to help pin down the movements of an already suspected genuinely nasty bastard.

The police have neither time, inclination, nor budget to be chasing down you and I with such a system unless we are either the road-tax dodgers or have already broken the law in a far more extreme manner.

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Stop

Re: @Psyx - Nevermind the gaps.

"Balderdash. That's where it starts. It's very unlikely to be where it finishes."

See my other post. One can easily condemn any change in our existing system as an infringement in rights. And you missed the boat on 'where it starts' the second the first CCTV camera was installed in Mothercare thirty years ago.

I'm personally sick of pikey wankers bragging about never paying their damn road tax, and am several grand down from the last time some uninsured driver hit my car.

Yeah: Take a photo of me every time I drive past somewhere, once a day or whatever. How is that going to be used against me, for example?

"It would also have given them the ability to track everyone, everywhere and that is the sort of thing that the Stasi et al would have loved! It's all very well starting out with good intentions, but remember where that road leads..."

Ridiculous: No it doesn't. Take the damn bus instead, if you're feeling that paranoid. If you are that interested and paranoid about personal privacy, then put in a little more effort than driving the same way to work in the same car each day, rather than scream 'police state!' What manner of inflated ego makes you think that any of us are worth following, unless we've already done something pretty horrific.

Truth be told; your bank and ISP already know FAR more about you than the State ever will. Why not shout at them for their gross intrusions, instead?

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