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back to article Royston cops' ANPR 'ring of steel' BREAKS LAW, snarls watchdog

A system of police cameras that slurped the comings and goings of Brits living and working in the small Hertfordshire town of Royston has been found to be "unlawful" for collecting "excessive" information, the UK's data watchdog ruled today. The local cops' Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) scheme had been dubbed "the …

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Anonymous Coward

The cameras are only there to answer the question as to whether cars are local or not.

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Did you just say that those are local cameras for local people?

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You'll never leave.

(We didn't burn him)

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sinisterly deliberate or incompetently deliberate

were the APNR a result of Royston lying on a convergence of convenient east west routes between the A11 and M11 and the A1M and Luton and the north south route from Huntingdon to Hertford?

(I remember before the bypass when the traffic went through Royston)

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Alert

Re: sinisterly deliberate or incompetently deliberate

Out of interest, what is the bypass? The A1(M)? Or is it that road that cuts through some rocky hill (the one that leads to a load of roundabouts and the tunnel before you get to the A1(M))?

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Re: sinisterly deliberate or incompetently deliberate

The bypass is in the A505, the east-west road from the A1 at Baldock to the M11 at Duxford, which used to run through the town centre. Its bypass, built in the late '70s, now forms the town's northern boundary. The north-south road, known as the A10 south of Royston and the B1198 north of it, connects Hertford and Huntingdon. It still runs through the middle of Royston. The rocky cut of which you speak is on the A10 at the southern edge of Royston. From there the road north runs steeply downhill before turning right and curving left past the market square and the town park. After that it briefly joins the A505 bypass before, now known as the B1198, it heads north past Bassingbourn.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: sinisterly deliberate or incompetently deliberate

That would be Baldock, the Royston bypass takes the A505 out of the town while the A10 passes through it. It does however cut through some more chalk on the eastern edge.

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Its not just in Royston

Go around the A406 north circular in london and you'll see the damn things - 3 or 4 in a row on a pole - every half mile or so. No idea what they're used for but I'm sure its not to spot Santa on christmas day.

Incidentaly the ANPR records from the whole of england (perhaps even the whole UK , I'm not sure on that point) are kept on a database at Hendon for 2 YEARS. I'm really struggling to see how plod can justify that though no doubt if asked they use a phrase involving the word "terrorism". Or these days perhaps they could even manage some logical contortion to link the data to monitoring peadophiles. Nothing matters compared to Thinking Of The Children, right?

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Re: Its not just in Royston

Most of them are for monitoring traffic flow to help them keep traffic moving as far as is possible.

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Re: Its not just in Royston

No, that would be the Traffic Master cameras. They monitor traffic density and flow.

ANPR's, on the other hand, record the number plate, time, location and direction of each car that passes it. Completely different.

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Black Helicopters

@ jonathanb - Re: Its not just in Royston

Monitoring traffic flow needs the recognition and storage of number plate data, does it? I don't really think so; a road sensor would already do the trick.

What really tickles me is that the current government was totally against all these cameras when the last government did it. I suspect the next government will be against them as well, until they've been voted for.

I'm off to get some more tinfoil . . .

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Re: Its not just in Royston

Those ones on the North Circular are the Low Emissions Zone cameras - at least that's what they tell us.

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Holmes

@ andreas koch - Its not just in Royston

"Monitoring traffic flow needs the recognition and storage of number plate data, does it? I don't really think so"

Trafficmaster calculates average speed for traffic by recording part of the number plates of vehicles and then seeing when these vehicles pass further cameras.

So not the full number, and not stored permanently. But ANPR - yes, definitely.

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Gimp

Re: Its not just in Royston

"Incidentaly the ANPR records from the whole of england (perhaps even the whole UK , I'm not sure on that point) are kept on a database at Hendon for 2 YEARS. "

I think you'll find it's now 5 years.

The got a good deal on more storage.

No. There really is no justification for this length of data retention.

It really is "because we can," which is partly what drives all these fetishists.

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Re: Its not just in Royston

why yes, of course, they just monitor the traffic flow...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Its not just in Royston

and very importantly the Traffic Master cameras do not store the Numberplates in a big central database! its part of the rules that they cannot do that! (that is if I remember correctly...)

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Re: @ jonathanb - Its not just in Royston

>> Monitoring traffic flow needs the recognition and storage of number plate data, does it? I don't really think

>> so; a road sensor would already do the trick.

Trafficmaster can put up cameras, but can't dig up the road for sensors. And they do use ANPR to calculate flow speeds - but just don't keep the data (reportedly)

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Re: Its not just in Royston

Out here in the colonies, our government presented a bill for consideration called The Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act which mentioned neither children nor internet predators. However, believe it or not, it did legitimize snooping.

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Meh

Re: Its not just in Royston

I'll fix that for you:

"Those ones on the North Circular are the Low Emissions Zone latest revenue-raising scam cameras....."

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this is local surveillance...

... for local people.

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Joke

Re: this is local surveillance...

You should feel good about this. It proves the government does care about you!

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What's changed?

How is this different to the ACPO national network of ANPR cameras?

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Big Brother

Re: What's changed?

It's even more stupid and overblown.

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I can't see any justification for the police recording *any* ANPR data long-term, whether they are recording all routes out of an area, or just one. (Short-term capture, to check against a database so un-taxed or un-insured drivers can be stopped a mile up the road, is fine by me. Longer than a day, is not! )

Bear in mind that a criminal with something to hide, can clone the plates of another car of the same make, model and colour. For the same reason, recorded ANPR data can't be used as evidence. It proves what letters were on a plate, not what car the plate was attached to.

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Anonymous Coward

It's kept to keep us safe from ilegal Imigrant, homosexual, pedofile terorists don't you know. The ones that DARE to not mind bi-weekly bin collections!

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Anonymous Coward

Who's to say they aren't storing the photographs as well?

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Big Brother

"Everyone is a potential criminal, so we'll have all we need on you when you do finally commit a crime, which we know you will! You lot can't help yourselves! You're all criminal, law-breaking scum AND A NEW ORDER WILL BE ESTABLISHED UNDER ONE RULE OF LAW LEAD BY THE GLORIOUS LEADER!"

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Anonymous Coward

oh, so that's the name John Reid uses on here ...

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"Who's to say they aren't storing the photographs as well?"

They are, although perhaps not in the way you think. Dedicated ANPR cameras usually only record an image of the plate, but many CCTV cameras can be dual use with software monitoring the video feed to provide slightly less accurate ANPR capabilities, and these will indeed automatically record both images and plates. Even the dedicated cameras are often co-located with CCTV so that cross referencing is very easy. There's plenty of stuff about this if you search with the terms ACPO ANPR.

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"I can't see any justification for the police recording *any* ANPR data long-term"

Most serious crime isn't solved immediately, and in many cases it goes on for months before being detected, never mind cracked. A recent court case round our way involved drugs deals done fifty miles away over a period of a year, and the ANPR data was used both as supporting evidence in court to the crims movements, and operationally to track the dealers to their supplier. In many serious cases, it becomes important to know where the subject of interest went before he was known to be "of interest", and you can't do that without recorded data. Even with duplicate or stolen plates, if you've recorded the data you know the movements of the cars involved, and if I report my plates as stolen one morning, then the police will automatically deduce that somebody has been up to no good in a car with my registration, and they can start looking for both perps and the crime. Piece that together with CCTV and other evidence, and swapping plates isn't quite so anonymous as some people seem to think.

Personally, I'd rather ANPR was used against serious crime rather than road tax dodgers (who could be caught by non-ANPR means). Unfortunately, if you want ANPR to be used against serious and organised crime then that means recording and retaining the data.

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Gimp

@Amorous Cowherder

""Everyone is a potential criminal, so we'll have all we need on you when you do finally commit a crime, which we know you will! You lot can't help yourselves! You're all criminal, law-breaking scum AND A NEW ORDER WILL BE ESTABLISHED UNDER ONE RULE OF LAW LEAD BY THE GLORIOUS LEADER!""

Yes that's pretty much exactly what the Home Office civil servants who bank rolled this think.

The cops might be willing (as long as someone else puts the cash on the table) but it's the data fetishists of the HO that really want the dream of theirs to live.

A sane society would not kill or imprison such people.

It would study them to find out what twisted their world view to make this seem a good idea.

It's a condition, not a rational policy.

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Anonymous Coward

@Ledswinger,

Yes, long term storage may help SOLVE a crime, but that's exactly the problem we have with CCTV as well: various studies have proven it does absolutely nothing to PREVENT crime. I personally prefer the prevention bit - if you're lying on the street with your knife in your back it's really not much comfort to know they may catch your killer eventually.

BTW, on the topic of road section cameras, I'm in half a mind to start challenging speeding tickets based on average speed cameras as I have no average speed meter in my car, and I am thus simply not in the position to directly assess my compliance...

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Anonymous Coward

Strangely enough, I think APNR should be used against road tax & insurance dodgers...

While sending a letter out or automatic fines are bad ideas, using the cameras to pop an alert to the local traffic officer to pull them over is a valid use, since the road tax & insurance dodgers are the ones putting the rest of us at risk on the roads!

But keep the records for 6 months only, I can't see how any longer storage is needed... and yes other than the above mentioned offences it should only be used for serious crimes!

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since the road tax & insurance dodgers are the ones putting the rest of us at risk on the roads!

I always thought it was people driving like idiots that put the rest of us at risk, not those who fail to pay the relevant taxes?

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Devil

> Who's to say they aren't storing the photographs as well?

Of course we don't store them. We keep them for one day and then they are deleted. We do, however use iscsi storage at the end of a link which happens to run through GCHQ.

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Challenging Average speed tickets

"BTW, on the topic of road section cameras, I'm in half a mind to start challenging speeding tickets based on average speed cameras as I have no average speed meter in my car, and I am thus simply not in the position to directly assess my compliance..."

Good luck with that. Ask a school kid to explain the maths to you...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Challenging Average speed tickets

To spell it out: if you do not exceed the speed limit at any time then it is not possible for your average speed to be greater than the speed limit.

Maybe you should look up what 'average' means.

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In many serious cases, it becomes important to know where the subject of interest went before he was known to be "of interest"...

If this is true (which I doubt -- "useful", yes, "important" no) then it will have dramatically reduced the costs of investigations of these serious cases -- no need to go around looking for witnesses to the movements, or tailing the suspects. So, I propose that the budgets for these cases be cut by 50% and the funds transferred to CEOPS.

Let's make this offer to some senior CID officers and see what they say... if ANPR is so important to them they will happily take the offer. My bet is that they would choose to give up the ANPR and keep the budget.

The police can't have it both ways: if surveillance, ANPR, snooper's charter, etc are what they want then they have to give up the people budget. The government should be using the funding to make sure the police are asking for what they really need.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Challenging Average speed tickets

Maybe you should look up what 'average' means

Yes - it actually seems to imply that such metering includes permission to EXCEED the imposed limit as long as the the average is correct. The idea is actually not as weird as it seems, I do recall coming across something that doesn't allow *interpreted* information, but I agree it will probably an uphill battle with a very low chance of success.

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Anonymous Coward

Let us hope

No pray, that the pendulum of 'security' and 'terror' is swinging the other way finally.

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Happy

Re: Let us hope

What a lovely thought :)

Completely without hope, but a lovely thought.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Let us hope

No pray, that the pendulum of 'security' and 'terror' is swinging the other way finally.

I thought they stopped hanging people a while back? Oh, wait...

On a more serous note, not a chance. Have you seen how much money is made with this racket?

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Anonymous Coward

And in Brum

certainly on the A38 from J4 of the M42. Rumour has it the local wags drive past those, and the ones on the A34 (about 15 miles away) simultaneously with identical number plates.

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Re: And in Brum

"Rumour has it the local wags drive past those, and the ones on the A34 (about 15 miles away) simultaneously with identical number plates"

Which won't confuse the systems, which will simply flag the plate as copied. And that means that any drivers of cars with those plates have a very high probability of being stopped as soon as they drive past an ANPR equipped traffic car. I can think of better ways of spending my time than baiting the traffic police.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And in Brum

Out of boredom more than spite ?

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Re: And in Brum

I read about some people (Australians IIRC) who were objecting to mobile speed traps, so what they did was strap the numbers of one of the other speed traps on; then go blatting past the victim speedtrap as fast as possible. Took them a while to catch on...

Not sure how apocryphal that story is; but it's thoroughly enjoyable to think about.

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Re: And in Brum

@moiety

It is apocryphal ... the story was circulated by email, in various versions happening either in Canberra or in Dunedin (NZ). Aside from anything else, the speed vans in Canberra tend to move around fairly regularly, so it would be difficult to pull this kind of stunt.

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Re: And in Brum

Another illusion shattered. *sigh*. I really liked that particular one too...

Thanks for the info.

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1984

In the 1984 miners strike the police had to hang around in cold laybys looking for any car with 4 big blokes in ti so they could stop possible miners from travelling around the country.

To save money on overtime they needed to automate the process of detecting possible striking miners moving freely around the country.

Admittedly it took a few years to get the system up and running, and they got the wrong Royston, and Royston colliery closed ...

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Holmes

not everyone is equal

the only place that is free from any form of survaliance is madam j'aime rugueux in mayfair which a favorite haunt of certain MP's...... obviously for security reasons.

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