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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  1. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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.

      1. Da Weezil

        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.

      2. Dave 15

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        Worse is that the tax disc is now obviously an out of date concept kept going because no one has the courage to scrap it.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

        1. William Old
          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".

    2. Test Man
      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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: In Aus they are mobile

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

      2. despairing citizen
        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)

    3. Dave 15

      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

    4. Steve Brooks

      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?

    5. JaitcH
      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.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. Yesnomaybe

      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.

      1. The BigYin

        Re: Bootnote

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

        1. Ian Johnston
          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.

          1. The BigYin

            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.

            1. Dave 15

              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.

              1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                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!

              2. Anonymous Coward
                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?

              3. The BigYin

                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.

          2. Andrew Norton

            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.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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.

        1. Psyx
          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?

  3. Purlieu

    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.

  4. Purlieu

    Deployment

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

  5. Anonymous Coward
    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?

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      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>

    2. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Re: Nevermind the gaps.

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

      State and Police.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nevermind the gaps.

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

        State and Police."

        Seriously? Is that what you believe? Then emigrate.

        Preferably to a real, shit-hole police state with no right to protest, free speech, votes (or corrupt ballots), right to fail trial and policemen who beat confessions out of you with electrical cable.

        I am sodding grateful for my rights here. It's not the best in the world, but it's in the top 10 or so. If you don't believe me, try being somewhere else.

        Please.

        1. The BigYin

          Re: Nevermind the gaps.

          @AC 13:24

          "I am sodding grateful for my rights here."

          So am I, which is why I don't want to see them eroded.

    3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      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.

      1. DragonLord

        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.

      2. The BigYin

        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.

        1. The BigYin

          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.

        2. NightFox
          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.

          1. The BigYin

            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.

            1. Fatman Silver badge

              Re: every administration that follows.

              We 'merkins have a recent example of this, the shit imposed on us by W, which Obama has decided not to undo.

              Can you trust the authorities not to screw the common man if they can get away with it??? I don't.

              Welcome to the `Police State of Amerika`, your papers please!!!!!

              Hey 'Reg, I have asked about a bullshit icon before, any chance of it ever happening???

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "a far hysterical cry from someone actively monitoring me.

            How do you know there isn't someone actively monitoring you?

            The ordinary decent folks who had been spied on for years by undercover cop Mark Kennedy didn't know he was an undercover cop operating under the orders of the unaccountable Association of Chief Police Officers. Not until it allegedly got too much for him.

            How many other Kennedys are still out there that we don't know about?

            Wake up. It's not looking good out there. It may not be East Germany yet, but we're heading the right way.

          4. Vic

            Re: Nevermind the gaps.

            > Police State? Get real

            First they came for the speeders...

            Vic.

        3. Psyx
          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.

          1. The BigYin

            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.

            1. Psyx
              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.

              1. The BigYin

                Re: Nevermind the gaps.

                @Psyx - Apples Vs Oranges

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

                Interesting you should have this as your first point. We haven't done it in a while (although we do have form), but recently we have provided support to regimes in the Middle East where it does happen. We also sell (or turn a blind eye to selling) weapons to regimes which use them on their own populace. So our current government already has form for supporting the violent suppression of democracy; and you want to give them more powers?

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

                If the police (for whatever reason) got it into their heads to torture someone, they already have enough implements at their disposal. The office station cupboard has many items that could be put to potential use. Not that I think the police force would actually go that far; the stories you do read about where prisoners have come to harm/died tend to be through ignorance/negligence rather than conspiracy.

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

                This might be true if such actions were not a matter of public record.

                "See: Any change in the way our system works can be portrayed as a gross infringement on rights."

                Umm...no. Any change that directly impedes me (as a law abiding citizen) is a gross infringement on rights. That includes (but is not limited to) mass surveillance and Internet censorship.

                "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."

                Umm...no. This is treating me like a criminal. It will also cost untold millions (even billions?) and we have no guarantee that it would work - all it will do is start an evasions arms race. Take those millions and spend them on rehabilitation, outreach, training, whatever and don't impede my freedom.

                "Make me put a GPS linked to a government database and live tracking system and I might think about taking it to the streets"

                Err...you do know that idea has been proposed, don't you? It was kicking around a few years ago as road-pricing; then it was EVSC and now it's ISA (a GPS unit that enforces/monitors speed, and it does talk back to mother so you can be fined/charged for use).

                "The police have neither time, inclination, nor budget to be chasing down you and I"

                The police won't be chasing me as I've done nothing wrong. But that is not the point as I am not really worried about the police per se; I am worried about that state-machine. The heartless, souless, life-crushing beast that is governmental bureaucracy. Being in charge of such a system is a civil servant's wet-dream, and they love their little power bases. Not that the public will actually run it, it'll be outsourced and we all know what a great job the companies our government employ make of things (Olympic security, "Working Links", trains...). G4S running the road-network observation system and keeping all that data secure. You seriously telling me that that doesn't give you nightmares?

                "unless we are either the road-tax dodgers or have already broken the law in a far more extreme manner."

                In which case, do as they do now; chase down those persons with good-old-fashioned policing. There is still no need to impinge on my freedoms.

                1. Psyx
                  Meh

                  Re: Nevermind the gaps.

                  "Umm...no. Any change that directly impedes me (as a law abiding citizen) is a gross infringement on rights. That includes (but is not limited to) mass surveillance and Internet censorship."

                  Whoa... you need to get over to the States, because you have the basis for our country ass-about-face. The AMERICAN government is supposedly there to protect the individual's rights. The UK government exists to protect the people. That's pretty much the difference between our countries. Essentially, this country's government doesn't aim to do what you want it to or think it should do. It never really has.

                  "and you want to give them more powers?"

                  It's not more powers. It's more tools. Powers come via legislation. That's what you need to focus the wrath on: The legislation surround the use of new tools.

                  "Not that I think the police force would actually go that far; the stories you do read about where prisoners have come to harm/died tend to be through ignorance/negligence rather than conspiracy."

                  See: We have firm legislation, good auditing and the police clearly lack the desire to abuse their trust regularly. That's a good thing. That should build and demonstrate trust. If the police were stapling people's hands to the wall, then giving them tasers would be a BAD idea.

                  "Umm...no. Any change that directly impedes me (as a law abiding citizen) is a gross infringement on rights. That includes (but is not limited to) mass surveillance"

                  Mass surveillance does not impede you in any way. Please tell me how it does? If the data is securely encrypted, with audited access which is only utilised if you are already a criminal, then how's that a problem. It's not: It's just a way of catching criminals. Now if any bod from the county council can just type your NI number into a PC and it comes up with a live feed, THEN it's a huge problem. Heck: If the police can just do that it's a problem. But if the data is strictly controlled and can only be used in the event of the same reasonable suspicion that allows the police to question you, then how is that as horrific?

                  Again: It's the legislation, not the tools.

                  I speed. That's frankly why I don't want GPS in my car, for the most part. I can cry about my rights, but really I just want to get away with petty crime. I do find that intrusive too, but mostly I know that I'm not of interest to the State. We all pick our levels of acceptance, and for me fixed speed cameras and tax cameras fall under my threshold.

                  "The heartless, souless, life-crushing beast that is governmental bureaucracy. Being in charge of such a system is a civil servant's wet-dream, and they love their little power bases."

                  As an ex civil servant, I don't remember becoming a monster. I was still a person. I wanted bad guys to get caught and joe average's life to carry on as normal. I wanted people to live happy lives. I assure you that civil servants do not want to ruin your life. And even if some of them did... they wouldn't have time. What makes you think that civil servants are all total bastards?

                  "In which case, do as they do now; chase down those persons with good-old-fashioned policing. There is still no need to impinge on my freedoms."

                  Good old fashioned policing means using the tools at your disposal. Would you have been opposed to fingerprints a hundred years ago, because it wasn't good old fashioned policing? Yet that fingerprint database infringes on your freedoms.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    "As an ex civil servant, I don't remember becoming a monster."

                    Nobody does. Well, almost nobody. One of the things I've noticed in civil servants is that at least some of them manage to unthinkingly presume the right to decide what is an acceptable happy life for the people. I won't say it would make one a monster right away, but it certainly is a part of what makes good paving for the road to hell out of good intentions.

                    One of the defining differences between archiving cabinets full of fingerprint cards and keeping pictures of number plates, plus times and dates where the pictures were taking, of just anyone at all, is that you have to at least attract police attention to get on the former (and you knew it happened, the ink on your fingers gave it away) whereas the latter, well, you just have to go about your legitimate business and you get tracked.

                    The thread starter (which is coincidentally the same person as the one writing this comment) asked whether storing data indiscriminately "just in case" is acceptable. I for me believe it is not.

                    And while legislation is all good and well, it is no substitute for building the database in such a way that wilful abuse is stopped, or at least made harder, more visible, and more certainly punished. You can break and abuse just about everything, but you can make it harder, for example by encrypting and such. However, just because there is legislation doesn't mean that the encryption and things also automatically happens. Usually it doesn't, moreso in the absence of careful auditing. And given that the politicians making the legislation have no clue whatsoever about proper technical measures, you can be sure the stuff they do pass into legislation is only useful to annoy the people having to execute all the red tape, but certainly not for building a robust system, security wise.

                    All in all, I don't mind police to have the right tool for the job. That leaves the question of just what sort of tool we want the police to have. "Just in case" storing of... I don't care what data indiscriminately pertaining to just about everybody, is not an acceptable tool for policing a small percentage of ne'er-do-wells, thank you.

                    Then again, apparently the police and goverment in general, as apparatuses if maybe not on the level of the individual servant, seem to have generally lost touch with the fact that most people generally don't bother anyone else. Certainly given the need they seem to have to bother everyone else.

                    1. Psyx
                      Holmes

                      Re: "As an ex civil servant, I don't remember becoming a monster."

                      "Nobody does. Well, almost nobody. One of the things I've noticed in civil servants is that at least some of them manage to unthinkingly presume the right to decide what is an acceptable happy life for the people"

                      So, are you insinuating that I trampled over people's freedoms and don't remember doing so? Really?

                      There are laws and guidelines you work to, not that you make up for yourself.

                      Some people break the rules, but so do plenty of sysadmins.

                      "One of the defining differences between archiving cabinets full of fingerprint cards and keeping pictures of number plates, plus times and dates where the pictures were taking, of just anyone at all, is that you have to at least attract police attention to get on the former (and you knew it happened, the ink on your fingers gave it away) whereas the latter, well, you just have to go about your legitimate business and you get tracked."

                      But that's not true. And that's a matter of legislation, not the tool itself.

                      The data will indeed sit there unless you:

                      a) Have broken the law and don't have a tax disk

                      b) Later commit a offence serious enough for someone to want to go trawling through the database.

                      In the first case: Fair enough. In the second, it is a matter for legislation to decide when is 'reasonable cause' to do so, and a matter of surrounding technology to control and audit access.

                      For example, the police don't just run PNC checks when bored on people. They get in trouble for that, y'know.

                      "And while legislation is all good and well, it is no substitute for building the database in such a way that wilful abuse is stopped, or at least made harder, more visible, and more certainly punished."

                      This is already done. There is prior form that the police can generally be trusted in the matter. PNC searches are recorded and audited and coppers sometimes lose their jobs for misuse.

                      "However, just because there is legislation doesn't mean that the encryption and things also automatically happens. Usually it doesn't, moreso in the absence of careful auditing."

                      This is not the case, though. Provably so. qv.

                      "And given that the politicians making the legislation have no clue whatsoever about proper technical measures, you can be sure the stuff they do pass into legislation is only useful to annoy the people having to execute all the red tape, but certainly not for building a robust system, security wise."

                      Again, this is not how things happen. The people who design systems are aware of civil liberties, data protection laws et al. Speaking personally, they no more want a nosey plod looking them up than you do, either.

                      "I don't care what data indiscriminately pertaining to just about everybody, is not an acceptable tool for policing a small percentage of ne'er-do-wells, thank you."

                      But your police record and fingerprint records are just that. Already. They can be misused, but they are on the whole used for rounding up that minority of trouble makers. Those 'just in case' fingerprints catch a lot of criminals.

                      "Then again, apparently the police and goverment in general, as apparatuses if maybe not on the level of the individual servant, seem to have generally lost touch with the fact that most people generally don't bother anyone else. Certainly given the need they seem to have to bother everyone else."

                      I disagree. The police know damn well who the criminals are. Because they see them time and time again. They know darn well where the blame lies and that you and I are just trying to live our lives in peace. Go read Nightjack.

                  2. Vic

                    Re: Nevermind the gaps.

                    > I don't remember becoming a monster

                    I don't remember being born.

                    Vic.

          2. Graham Marsden
            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...

            1. Psyx
              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?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: @Psyx - Nevermind the gaps.

                "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?"

                Why not shout at them IN ADDITION?

                1. Psyx

                  Re: @Psyx - Nevermind the gaps.

                  Think of your bloodpressure.

                  It's a good job that you don't live in an actual police state, and instead live in one of the ten or so most libitarian countries in the world.

              2. Graham Marsden
                FAIL

                Re: @Psyx - Nevermind the gaps.

                Let me just quote you a line from V from Vendetta:

                People should not be afraid of their Governments, Governments should be afraid of their people!

                You seem to be quite content to give away *my* civil liberties simply because *you* have a problem with "pikey wankers", well, I'm sorry, but those liberties are NOT yours to give away!

                I should not need to choose different routes to avoid Government surveillance of my movements, nor should I have to take the bus to stop the State watching where I go. Anything like that needs a REALLY good reason to be introduced, not simply "well it will make Psyx happier" or "it might make the Police's job easier (and save us a bit of dosh)"

                I am not being paranoid, you are being naiive and short sighted, so let me leave you with another quote, this time from George Satayana: "Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it".

                1. Psyx
                  Black Helicopters

                  Re: @Psyx - Nevermind the gaps.

                  "Let me just quote you a line from V from Vendetta:"

                  /facepalm. Comic-book rhetoric adds nothing.

                  "You seem to be quite content to give away *my* civil liberties simply because *you* have a problem with "pikey wankers", well, I'm sorry, but those liberties are NOT yours to give away!"

                  Yeah... they are: I am a viting member of the proletariat. It's called a democracy. If more of us elect to go without them than with and vote that way, we can have it that way. There's always the next democracy over if you don't like it. Except you'll struggle to find one with as many of them that isn't below freezing most of the year. Even lovely Switzerland makes our road-traffic surveillance look half-hearted, by the way.

                  "I am not being paranoid, you are being naiive and short sighted, so let me leave you with another quote, this time from George Satayana: "Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it"."

                  No, I'm not: You are. Civil liberties are continuing to move in the RIGHT direction in this country. We have more than our grandparents. We have more than most. Don't just knee-jerk every development as a civil rights infringement. HOW does it affect you?

                  Additionally, you have a problem with the technology. It is never the technology that is an issue only surrounding legislation. For example: Arming police with tasers. Is that a massive issue? No, because the legislation surrounding their use is stringent in the extreme and they are heavily audited.

                  I am opposed to ID cards and live GPS motor surveillance, and I am opposed to most forms of over-intrusion. Fixed cameras to catch fraudsters are not one of those things. They are a policing tool.

                  Are you opposed to a national fingerprint database and centralised criminal records, too?

                  There is no 'bigger fail' icon, so I'll have to use black helicopters for you.

                  1. Graham Marsden
                    Boffin

                    Re: @Psyx - Nevermind the gaps.

                    You don't really understand the concept of human rights and civil liberties, do you? They are not things that can simply be voted out by the wishes of the majority (or a loud voiced minority) when they are deemed to be inconvenient or undesirable. I will stand up for the rights of *everyone* and that includes alleged "pikey wankers". If they have committed a crime, fine, arrest them and punish them, but don't consider everyone to be a potential criminal and remove *my* liberties because you don't like *them*. To paraphrase Satayana: Learn from history because the consequences of considering some people to be less deserving of rights are too hideous to risk.

                    "Civil liberties are continuing to move in the RIGHT direction in this country."

                    WTF? We used to have the Right to demonstrate outside Parliament without Police permission. No more. We used to have the Right to be charged with a crime before being imprisoned. Not now.. We have seen numerous incidences of Police abusing their powers eg Kettling, hassling people for taking photographs of famous landmarks in case they were terrorists. We now have the government saying we need to ask for permission to be allowed to look at pornography. We have a law which states that if, in someone's subjective view, a picture shows something that is "life threatening" or "risks serious injury to someone's breasts, genitals or anus" simply *possessing* that image can get you up to three years in jail! We have seen Councils using powers designed to keep an eye on terrorist suspects being used to spy on families to make sure they're not illicitly trying to get their kid into a particular school...

                    If this is the "right direction" I hate to think what the WRONG direction is!

                    You ask "HOW does it affect you" as if I'm not allowed to object if I can't justify that. Well, sorry, but I am allowed (I have the Right!) to object even when it *doesn't* affect me directly, because it affects others. And since you don't like me quoting V for Vendetta, I'll remind you of the quote from Pastor Martin Niemoller instead. Just because I'm not in an affected group doesn't mean that I will say nothing.

                    "Are you opposed to a national fingerprint database and centralised criminal records, too?"

                    No, however I AM opposed to compulsory fingerprinting, national DNA databases and anything else that considers me to be a suspect even *before* I'm suspected of doing anything wrong and that includes cameras that track me wherever I go "just in case" I might do something bad on the way.

                    That is what Rights are for.

                    1. Psyx
                      Stop

                      Re: @Psyx - Nevermind the gaps.

                      "You don't really understand the concept of human rights and civil liberties, do you?"

                      I understand reality, just fine.

                      This country's entire system of government is about protecting people, not rights. As I said before: You're in the wrong country if you think it is. That's just the way of it, I'm afraid.

                      Unfortunately in some cases fortunately in others, the State believes that my neighbour's safety is more important than - for example - my right to own weapons or to have a TNT-making hobby.

                      "They are not things that can simply be voted out by the wishes of the majority (or a loud voiced minority) when they are deemed to be inconvenient or undesirable."

                      In ideal-land, perhaps not. But that's not the way it works. In fact, it's not even as nice as that, because we get to vote once, and then the government gets to erode whatever rights it likes for five years. If you think other-wise, you're living in a dreamland. The truth is that 'inalienable rights' can be voted down or swept away easily.

                      Downvote me as much as you like for stating the truth, but that's the way of it. I don't agree, but I don't have to agree with volcanoes, either; they don't care about opinion. Your 'Rights' only exist for as long as the State permits them to. Fortunately we do not live in a totally unreasonable police state. Fortunately we have a European Court we can escalate matters to. (Shame our State doesn't always listen to it, but that's another debate).

                      "If they have committed a crime, fine, arrest them and punish them"

                      If they have no road tax, they will be.

                      "WTF? We used to have the Right to demonstrate outside...If this is the "right direction" I hate to think what the WRONG direction is!"

                      I'd agree. I'm appalled and aggrieved at those things too. And yet in a hundred other ways, we have more. We make two steps forward and one back. We have more rights than our parents.

                      "You ask "HOW does it affect you" as if I'm not allowed to object if I can't justify that."

                      No; I asked: "How does it affect you?"

                      "No, however I AM opposed to ... anything else that considers me to be a suspect even *before* I'm suspected of doing anything wrong ..."

                      If you are charged with anything, your fingerprints are retained "just in case". Your SMS details are retained in case you do anything wrong, as is a large swathe of other data on you. The horse has already bolted in so many ways, and you are screaming about the mouse of a static camera.

                      "That is what Rights are for."

                      For all your maligning and lecturing, I do seem to have a grasp of their realities and the facts, thanks.

                      In immediately assuming me to be your enemy because I disagree on where my rights are being infringed you show an extreme black-and-white view on the subject which makes it unsurprising that you seem to totally mistrust the state's ability to do *anything* fairly.

                      1. Graham Marsden

                        Re: @Psyx - Nevermind the gaps.

                        So let me sum up your position as far as I can see it from what you've written:

                        You like the idea of Rights, however you're happy to live in a world where they are fluid, variable things which can be removed from people you don't like when it's inconvenient, but as long as it doesn't affect you, you're not going to make a fuss and you don't think that I should either.

                        Well, I'm sorry, but despite your patronising "stop worrying your pretty little head about this" arguments, I *AM* going to make a fuss because I do *not* trust the state's ability to do anything fairly since history has so often shown those who have been elected to office (with all the best intentions in the world) start thinking as you do that "it would be helpful/ useful/ convenient if we just infringed this right a *little* bit to deal with the 'pikey wankers' out there" and then someone else moves that "little bit" on a fraction further and then it moves a bit more...

                        First they came...

          3. GitMeMyShootinIrons
            Big Brother

            @Psyx

            But lets remember the old saying about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions.

            Consider the many times where a dictator has rallied the people around claims that he can fix all the problems and make things better. The modern western country is monitored in so many ways (whether it's monitoring web use, emails, instant messaging, financial transactions, cameras of all sorts) that you might dodge one method, but you can't escape. All it takes is an enigmatic leader to manage to take charge (through fair means or foul) and these tools would make removing such a person nearly impossible. Many a past secret police would be most jealous of modern capabilities. How do you organise opposition when the government can track every move of any 'suspect'?

            And before you say it couldn't happen, I'm sure similar thoughts occurred in Imperial Russia and the Wiemar Republic.

            1. Psyx
              FAIL

              Re: @Psyx

              "But lets remember the old saying about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions."

              Are you sure you don't work for the medieval church? What you are saying can be applied to ANY progress. ANY invention, social development, or idea can be put to evil use. You are saying that even though there are good intentions, we should not move forward in development.

              NHS records...could be misused. So can that evil internet thing. The list goes on. Ban every development that improves life. Because a hypothetical person might TAKE OVER THE COUNTRY and misuse it.

              "Consider the many times where a dictator has rallied the people around claims that he can fix all the problems and make things better."

              Fortunately we are not about to be over-run by one. What a dictator might do to this country is not a reasonable excuse for not doing any one thing. If your fear of fixed number plate cameras is that a dictator might misuse them, then perhaps you are looking at the wrong thing to be afraid of. Look instead at stopping the dictator.

              Which luckily, we're kinda good for. We have parliament. And Lords can over-rule and new law that disbands it, and the Queen can over-rule anything that strips us of the House of Lords. And if that all fails, the Army swears oaths to the Queen, not a dictator or the PM. So... y'know, I think we're safe.

              "And before you say it couldn't happen, I'm sure similar thoughts occurred in Imperial Russia and the Wiemar Republic."

              Really? Are you seriously taking that route in the course of debate?

              Godwins; in all but name.

          4. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: You can't equate...

            Thank you. And for the room temperature IQ brigade (who seem to be out in force today), please bear in mind that if a police state wants to pick on you then they'll just kick your door down one morning and drag you away. They won't bother to trump up some spurious charge relating to your car number plate.

            If you don't know the difference between the UK and a police state, please emigrate to one and don't come back until you've found out. I hear Zimbabwe is nice at this time of year and you won't have to learn a new language.

            1. Greg J Preece

              Re: You can't equate...

              If you don't know the difference between the UK and a police state, please emigrate to one and don't come back until you've found out. I hear Zimbabwe is nice at this time of year and you won't have to learn a new language.

              Oooh, a reverse ILYISMWDYGLT! You don't see that level of idiocy often. I feel privileged.

              1. William Old
                Mushroom

                Re: You can't equate...

                I assume that you really meant IYLISMWDYGLT... and that you are therefore only a *little* bit dyslexic... :)

                And you clearly know nothing about what constitutes a police state. But your arrogance in referring to such a well-drafted comment as "idiocy" would not last very long in one... in fact, I guess you'd quickly be screaming for the police (the British type) to protect you. Such delicious irony.

            2. Graham Marsden
              FAIL

              @Ken Hagen - Re: You can't equate...

              Ah, stooping to personal insults. Bravo, that gives your points so much more credibility.

              Police states don't just happen, they come about because people believe their governments when they are told "we need to temporarily abridge some of your rights, but don't worry, it won't be long and it's for your own protection".

              Then "temporary" becomes "permanent" because there's a new threat. Then those in the police forces who think like you go "hey, now we can deal with the bastards that we don't like, but could never touch before!" Then it's "well you can't object to this because if you do you're obviously on the side of people we don't like..."

              Then the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller come true once more...

        4. Dave 15

          Re: Nevermind the gaps.

          Totally agree.

          Worst criminals are those bankers, civil servants and captains of 'industry' who take millions for causing unemployment and poverty and offshore the cash to avoid tax (and there are plenty of them) . It doesn't take a lot to catch them and chuck them behind bars.

          The problem is the vast majority of the country don't have the brains.

      3. Graham Marsden
        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!

        1. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

          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.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            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.

      4. Greg J Preece

        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?

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        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.

    4. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      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.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      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".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          FAIL

          Re: "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."

          Yes, I l know - or are you always so pedantic?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

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

            Nothing to do with pedantry.

            ACPO Ltd is a private company with a track record of dodgy dealings and dodgy people (e.g. Andy Hayman ring any bells, either as a terrorism expert at the Met, Met investigator of/denier of phone tapping by Murdoch, or subsequent Murdoch employee and pantomime Home Affairs Select Committee witness?).

            You and I know may know a bit about ACPO Ltd but how many other readers here DON'T know about ACPO's status and activities? So thanks for the opportunity to add to what you wrote, sorry if what I wrote caused offence. OK with that?

            See you down the lodge later anyway ;)

            See also things like:

            "An influential policing body paid retired senior officers up to £1,100 a day to act as consultants.

            Bosses at the Association of Chief Police Officers signed contracts worth hundreds of thousands of pounds with companies run by their former colleagues.

            The payments, revealed after Freedom of Information requests, showed that former Cumbria assistant chief constable Graham Sunderland agreed to act as a consultant to ACPO just a month after leaving the force in February 2009.

            He was given two year-long contracts in 2009 and 2010, each worth £60,000 for at least 120 days’ work drawing up a strategy for identifying disaster victims at major incidents.

            In total he was paid £182,223 through his company, Epic (GS), including expenses and extra days. Former Essex chief constable David Stevens, who retired in June 2005, became an ACPO consultant the following month." (continues)

            As reported in various places including (perhaps rather surprisingly):

            http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2120300/Police-chiefs-hire-retired-colleagues-1-100-day-act-consultants.html

    6. Greg J Preece

      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.

    7. Dave 15

      Re: Nevermind the gaps.

      It isn't acceptable and never was. But lets face it the stupid 'if you have nothing to hide...' brigade have allowed this country to become a police state well beyond the worst nightmare of George Orwell. Everything you do, everywhere you go, everything you type, everything you say is collected, sifted and stored and WILL be used to extract money from you or jail you - whatever you haven't done.

    8. Another Justin
      Facepalm

      Re: Nevermind the gaps.

      So you see having your photo on a police database (that in all likelihood will never be looked at by a human being) as more of an injustice than say (for example), uninsured drivers on the roads, or stolen cars? Your saying that if the cost of catching criminals is having your photo taken then you'd rather the police just not bother? What if its your stolen car they can't find?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can I get e-ink

    On a yellow background? Methinks that an e-ink number plate may be the next big thing (goes off to patent the idea).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can I get e-ink

      I'm considering fitting Bond-style rotating plates to mine, or a slide cover that I can activate for a few seconds whenever I see yellow. Maybe some headlight howitzers and an alternator-charged pinch while I'm at it.

      1. Psyx
        Holmes

        Re: Can I get e-ink

        "I'm considering fitting Bond-style rotating plates to mine"

        You get fined for speeding and road tax evasion. You get thrown in jail for perverting the course of justice.

        It ain't worth it.

        If you habitually drive without tax or at excess speed, you are far more likely to be pulled over by a car than caught by a camera. And they tend to have a bit of a look around the car when then happens. Do you really want jail-time instead of a speeding fine?

        And if you're speeding to the extent where you can't see a sodding great bright yellow box on a stick, then you really shouldn't be speeding in the first place.

        Don't do the crime unless you can afford the fine, or handle the time.

        1. Graham Marsden
          Thumb Down

          @Psyx - Re: Can I get e-ink

          "you are far more likely to be pulled over by a car than caught by a camera"

          No, you're far more likely to get an NIP in the post a couple of weeks later from a "Safety Camera Partnership" who are more interested in raising money than promoting safety.

          For example last Friday I was on the A34, on a straight section of road, good conditions, no side turnings, no Speed Camera warning signs, plenty of room to stop in the distance that I could see clear on my side of the road and parked in a layby was an unmarked van with a camera sticking out of the back.

          It would serve *NO* safety purpose, there was nothing to make safer, it was simply there to generate revenue. Nobody was being stopped and warned or to "have a bit of a look around the car", no "pikey wankers" being done for driving without tax. Nope, just a bit of easy dosh. Kerching.

          I'm sure you'd be perfectly happy with this, though.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Psyx - Can I get e-ink

            The deviousness of the unmarked "safety" partnership vans and policemen jumping out of bushes with speedguns does annoy me.

            However, I ultimately accept that the law is the law. If the speed limit is 70 mph for a given section of road, the police have every right to monitor and enforce the speed on that piece of road - regardless of the conditions and if I speed (almost impossible on the A34!) then I do so at the risk of being fined or banned.

            Whether 70 is a sensible speed limit on motorways is a whole other debate.

          2. Psyx
            Go

            Re: @Psyx - Can I get e-ink

            "No, you're far more likely to get an NIP in the post a couple of weeks later from a "Safety Camera Partnership" who are more interested in raising money than promoting safety."

            I've never had one. But I've had I've had a handful of >100mph tickets.

            I slow down when I notice day-glow yellow boxes (and if you don't spot those, you won't spot a kid on a bike either, so you shouldn't be speeding and deserve it), and have a rough idea where they put camera vans... which around here is mostly in fairly reasonable places. Granted one is right over the brow of a bridge, but frankly anything could be over that brow, so they kinda have a fair point.

            "I'm sure you'd be perfectly happy with this, though."

            No: I like fast cars and driving fast. I hate mobile camera teams. Don't judge me as opposed to something just because I recognise that I deserve to be caught sometimes.

            I *choose* to break the law. I do so knowing that I am both breaking the law of the country that I *choose* to live in, and that I can be endangering others by doing so. I don't expect a free pass to break the rules and to get away with it, no more than I could -as a thief- demand that shops not have CCTV and all police officers must wear dark glasses to impede their eyesight.

            If I decide the risk of detection is too high, then I will slow down. This mainly happens when I don't know the roads and where the police like to sit, which makes it a good deterrent. And a good one: Because if I don't know the roads, then I really shouldn't be speeding.

            1. Graham Marsden
              Boffin

              Re: @Psyx - Can I get e-ink

              "you won't spot a kid on a bike either, so you shouldn't be speeding and deserve it"

              I am looking for Hazards. Hell, the Driving Test now contains the Hazard Perception Test which requires you to spot a *developing* hazard, ie something that is going to cause you to have to change your speed or direction.

              A stationary van in a layby on a straight piece of road is *NOT* a Hazard, a kid riding a bike is. I can look at the van, note it, then discount it from my Riding Plan because it's not going to have an effect on me. If it suddenly starts to pull away then I will spot it in my peripheral vision as I scan the road ahead and change my Riding Plan accordingly. A kid on a bike, however, *is* a potential Hazard, so I'll keep them in mind as I plan what I'm going to do and adjust my speed and direction appropriately if needed.

              Additionally, had the traffic been of sufficient density that I was unable to stop in the distance I could see clear or it was pi$$ing down with rain (as it was on the return journey on Monday) and thus increasing stopping distances, I would, of course, have slowed down accordingly, unlike some drivers who would have kept (and did keep) going at their previous speed which might have been below the posted limit but *too fast* for the conditions.

              Speed cameras, of course, won't notice them, they have no brains and no discretion, they deal in a simple binary choice of "below or above the limit", not "is the speed safe for the conditions"?

              1. Vic
                Joke

                Re: @Psyx - Can I get e-ink

                > A stationary van in a layby on a straight piece of road is *NOT* a Hazard

                You've never seen my van, then?

                Vic.

              2. Psyx
                Go

                Re: @Psyx - Can I get e-ink

                "I am looking for Hazards."

                So, your idea of what a hazard is was hard-wired at 17, and can't be increased to encompass "Things that are going to put points on my license, such as bright yellow boxes"? Really? So... as a regular speeder, you don't constantly keep an eye out for police vehicles, or drivers of vehicles wearing while shirts with epaulettes? C'mon: That's not a reasonable defence.

                "A stationary van in a layby on a straight piece of road is *NOT* a Hazard"

                Yes it is. It could pull out, or it could easily mask pedestrians or another vehicle in front of it which is moving. And if it has a tinted rear window and is clean then it falls into the "Could cost me my license" category.

                If I *choose* to speed, I have to be responsible for your actions and willing to pay the price. I am still. I don't try to pretend that it's unreasonable that I'm caught breaking the law in any way. I've never had a ticket that made me think "that's not fair". I might be caught in an unfair manner, but I was already electing to ignore the law.

                1. Graham Marsden

                  Re: @Psyx - Can I get e-ink

                  "So, your idea of what a hazard is was hard-wired at 17, and can't be increased to encompass "Things that are going to put points on my license, such as bright yellow boxes"?"

                  Whoops, nice assumption, just totally *wrong*.

                  No, my idea of what a Hazard is was what I learned when I joined the Solent Advanced Motorcyclists a couple of years ago and based on "Motorcycle Roadcraft: The Police Rider's Handbook to Better Motorcycling" and "How to Be a Better Rider" by the IAM and seems to have been sufficient to allow me to pass my Advanced Motorcycle Test a while back.

                  And if you bothered to read my post (and especially had you ever taken any Advanced Training yourself) you'd have a) recognised the phraseology I used and b) noticed that I had *SAID* that if the van pulled out etc then it *would* become a hazard that I would have to incorporate into my Riding Plan.

                  The point I was making (which you also seem to have failed to understand) is that that van was doing *nothing* for "safety" on that piece of road. It was perfectly safe to Make Progress whilst observing other traffic and ensuring I could stop in the distance I could see clear on my side of the road. What was not safe (as I also mentioned) was on the journey back where in heavy rain with spray and standing water, vehicles were travelling at a speed which was *below* the posted limit but *too fast* for the conditions.

      2. Vic

        Re: Can I get e-ink

        > I'm considering fitting Bond-style rotating plates to mine

        There used to be a thing you could get for bike numberplates to flip them up out of the way so you could clean behind.

        It's very tricky cleaning around a bike number plate, y'see...

        Vic.

  7. Dazed and Confused

    all this and...

    So they've got traces on millions of cars, they have access to the insurance databases, how come there are still so many uninsured cars on the road costing the rest of us poor sod so much?

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: all this and...

      Probably because some bleeding heart privacy advocate won't let them run fishing expeditions across both databases.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: all this and...

        Ah it's you.

      2. William Old
        Holmes

        Re: all this and...

        The very first officially-sanctioned cross-matching of public databases that was sanctioned by the Data Protection Registrar was undertaken by the Audit Commission and saved millions of pounds. All they did was compare records of people in receipt of Housing Benefit and death records!

        Information is provided to the Audit Commission under Section 6 of the Audit Commission Act 1998 and the data matching is perfectly legal... it doesn't actually need the DPR's permission but of course there is close cooperation between the DPR and the Commission about the conduct of data matching programmes.

    2. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

      Re: all this and...

      It's not so much the uninsured drivers as the ambulance chasing lawyers, referral fees, and ridiculous hire car arrangements that put up the price of insurance.

    3. Psyx
      Holmes

      Re: all this and...

      "So they've got traces on millions of cars, they have access to the insurance databases, how come there are still so many uninsured cars on the road costing the rest of us poor sod so much?"

      Three possible reasons to my mind:

      A) They *don't* in practice (mis-)use such databases for massive datamining operations. Which makes all the POLICE STATE posts on the thread provably moot.

      B) They don't have the time or resources to do so. The only time it's worth trying to dredge through is in the event of serious crimes, which are worth the time investment.

      C) It was a government IT project and doesn't work properly.

      I'm personally leaning towards thinking that it's a little of each.

      1. Best Before:
        Black Helicopters

        Re: all this and...

        Actually I would postulate there is also:

        D) Perhaps there aren't that many uninsured cars on the road...

        Whilst yes I am suggesting that the problem is not as bad as they say I do admit I don't actually know but like every initiative sponsored by a government that just doesn't have anything to do except dream up ways of spending public money, I would question the reality of the "problem" they claim, WMD in Iraq anyone?

        1. William Old
          Flame

          Re: all this and...

          Crap.

          On many housing estates in the North East, around two-thirds of all cars were uninsured before the changes to the Road Traffic Act 1998 were made by S.22 Road Safety Act 2006.

          It was only because Northumbria Police started their own initiative against uninsured cars despite there being a lack of clarity about the lawfulness of seizing such vehicles that the Home Office was forced to introduce specific powers using S.152 of the Serious Organised Crime And Police Act 2005 to amend the Road Traffic Act 1988 - introducing new sections 165A and 165B.

          And your post, despite your complete lack of knowledge of the subject, is typical of the attitude of many other posters on here who fire from the hip without even bothering to find out anything about the subject on which they have become instant experts... sigh.

  8. Kevin Johnston

    Probably just me but...

    this is one of the few instances of 'Big Brother' I am comfortable with. I know that kit/laws/people can be 're-purposed' but ANPR cameras are in the same category as keeping a list of the usual suspects. It is well known that people using a vehicle for criminal purposes tend to not spend money on tax/insurance or even have the vehicle in their name to try to remove any links so it is only when they are driving it that you have a chance to notice. Putting up ANPR cameras picks out the wrong-uns and the chase is on.

    I would rather have 20 or 100 ANPR cameras rather than one speed camera regardless of their objectives because if you can show a speed camera site meets the current guidelines to install one then perhaps you should look at why there are so many drivers speeding and fix it. Of course that does mean spending money rather than earning it so it is somewhat unlikely to happen

    1. nsld
      FAIL

      Re: Probably just me but...

      The vast majority of these camera's are static, all they do is record every car that passes, they dont then jump out of the ground and give chase if an untaxed or uninsured car goes past.

      1. Kevin Johnston

        Re: Probably just me but...

        They do however flag up in a control room who can advise a suitably place mobile unit.....I was trying to keep the post short.

      2. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

        Re: Probably just me but...

        Round here the cops do use the alerts they generate in real time to catch uninsured drivers.

    2. druck Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Probably just me but...

      Kevin Johnston wrote:

      I would rather have 20 or 100 ANPR cameras rather than one speed camera

      You do know that at the push of a button the ANPR system could be turned in to the worlds biggest average speed camera system? Unlike SPECs systems which calculate average speeds between two points on one road, ANPR can calculate the average speed between any two cameras in the country. If that worked out faster than they thought was legally possible, you could be issued with a speeding ticket. They aren't doing that now, but could very easily in the future.

    3. Vic

      Re: Probably just me but...

      > It is well known that people using a vehicle for criminal purposes tend to not spend money on tax/insurance

      Nonsense. Petty crooks might not, but serious criminals are squeaky-clean in that department. It would be imbecilic to get caught for having no car tax if you've got a boot full of high-value dodgy gear.

      Vic.

  9. Tim #3

    One further side effect of these cameras... all agricultural vehicles in this area have "lost" their front numberplates since the cameras were brought in (and rear ones, if they exist, are always hidden by whatever load is being towed).

    Presumably HMRC can access these cameras info, and would otherwise use that to spot that the agricultural vehicles are evading duty by using red diesel for haulage purposes.

    1. Psyx
      Holmes

      I don't believe that agricultural vehicles require road tax, just as they can also be driven by under 17s. But that aside...

      The police would have to have a lot of spare time on their hands if they could be bothered to flag every agricultural vehicle on the road and check the photo to see what it's dragging.

      If they wanted to actually catch farmers using red diesel, they'd just drive over to their home and do a fuel test on the inevitable diesel-driven mercedes/volvo/landy that the farmer does his shopping in.

      1. Vic

        > I don't believe that agricultural vehicles require road tax

        They do to be driven on the road - but it might cost nothing.

        My mate has a vintage tractor. It costs him £10 a year to insure, and the road tax is free. It does 16mph at full throttle in 8th gear...

        Vic.

  10. JMB

    "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?"

    It was obvious during the debate on the police keeping DNA indefinitely (did they ever stop doing that?) that the police do not understand the concept of "innocence". Everyone is potentially guilty, just that they have not managed to find what you are guilty of yet.

    I can remember one interview with a senior police officer and he could not understand someone being innocent.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      police concept of innocence

      There's no problem with the police assuming that everyone is guilty. In a sense, that's part of their job (just as a network security specialist will spend time thinking like a cracker). You only get problems if they start acting like we are guilty.

      When I start getting pulled over or sent accusing letters, requiring effort on my part to bat them off, *then* it's a problem. Having a police computer tracking my whereabouts for years, only to never actually use the data? That doesn't bother me. Indeed, how would I ever know that it was happening?

      For the same reason, I'm not bothered by the (clearly quite large) numbers of people on this comments thread who think I'm sleep-walking into a Stalinist nightmare. I know I'm not and your opinions don't affect me. If it is any consolation, I'm sure the same is true for my opinion of you.

      1. Best Before:
        Big Brother

        Re: police concept of innocence

        "There's no problem with the police assuming that everyone is guilty. In a sense,"

        Appreciate that you were making a point and not being literal and whilst i also appreciate that in reality it is more true than I like to believe it is dangerous for Joe public to be content with this, all the continual constraints being placed on our lives and add this to the mix!

        I do cringe when I envisage our future, so many books and movies over the last 60 odd years have put forward a world of control "for our safety" it would certainly appear we are well on our way towards those that it makes me "think of of the children"..

  11. Jim 59

    Surveillance

    In keeping files on citizens, Britain takes the lead over Syria, Iran, Russia, China, North Korea and other lightweights. They monitor this forum, so don't say anything bad or it will go on your file.

    All seems like good fun until we stop having elections.

    1. QuinnDexter

      Re: Surveillance

      Really? You're comparing having your number plate being taken to what people are going through in Syria? Honestly?

      1. Greg J Preece

        Re: Surveillance

        No, he wasn't. Read his fucking post.

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: Surveillance

          Yes, he was. Read his fucking post.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Surveillance

        Both things are directly linked to your tax money. :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "All seems like good fun until we stop having elections"

      I thought the law was already changed a year or three ago so that elections could no longer be held at the will of Parliament, but only on a fixed five year schedule?

      In the next ten years, that fixed five year schedule will be set aside, and elections will be deferred, e.g. because of a state of emergency. Probability: 30%.

    3. Psyx
      WTF?

      Re: Surveillance

      "They monitor this forum, so don't say anything bad or it will go on your file."

      *passes the tinfoil hat, and prays that was ironic*

      Just how much frikkin' spare time do you think the security services have?

  12. The BigYin

    Do they think crims are stupid?

    Well, obviously some are. The ones who get caught. The smart criminals are either living free or in banking and politics. :)

    Anyway, obscuring your plate by cutting in front of another vehicle is unlikely to work, due to the RFID chip embedded in the plates. One the RFID equipment is widespread, it'll just read that instead. You could, of course, just break the RFID chip, but that leads to a further complication.

    The criminally minded could simply stick on fake plates (matching make and model if they have any sense). This would mean them having a plate that does not match its RFID, or has know RFID (due to it being broken). Either one would be a red flag (assuming the false positive level isn't high).

    So what do the crims do? Well, they just fake-up the RFID into their fake plate and all is right with their world. Except it isn't. The police could know that a car cannot get from (say) Manchester to the City of London in 5 minutes. Odds are one of them is a "clone" and possibly up to no good.

    But how would the police know all this? Simple. Monitor everyone. Only then will they know about cars jumping locations, plates with no RFID hwne they should have one etc etc.

    I am all for catching crims, but not at the expense of my own freedom. The only way ANPR can work is mass, constant surveillance. Effectively treating everyone like a criminal until they prove their innocence.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Manchester to the City of London in 5 minutes

      But I know someone in a team aiming for 12 minutes, no number plates though.

    2. Buzzword

      Re: Do they think crims are stupid?

      Just steal a plate off another car, complete with working RFID chip. Your best defence is to have a rare car or a rare colour.

      Most crims are stupid though. That's why ANPR works.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Do they think crims are stupid?

        Plates with RFID?

        Are these standard fitment?

        You can buy plates - with UK standard font - from websites online. As they are classed as Showplates, they wont have BS numbers, postcodes, dealer adverts or any RFID nonsense.

        Anon, because big brother etc....

        1. The BigYin

          Re: Do they think crims are stupid?

          RFID are now standard fitment in the UK I believe (my latest plate had one - "had" being the operative word) and if not, they are certainly being rolled out.

          You can get show plates and guess what - not road legal. Lucky for you that there are very few traffic plod left to spot it.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Do they think crims are stupid?

            The show plates I used are standard UK font, standard size, standard colour and have gotten through MOTs.

            There was some advice a while back that MOT testers had to check for postcodes and BS codes, but this was withdrawn at some point.

            Heck, some large NI car dealers even used the non-standard 'Metro' font! (nothing to do with Windows 8 thank goodness)

          2. MJI Silver badge

            My car has show plates

            Easiest way to get plates now, just use legal fonts and spacing - no issue.

            4 MOTs passed

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem is

    when so much money is spent on schemes like this, then the output *has* to be treated as gospel. Which makes mistakes almost impossible to comprehend or correct.

    "Brazil" wasn't fiction, it was a blueprint ....

  14. Purlieu

    UV

    ANPR and SPECS use UV light bounced of the micro-dimples in the numberplate.

    So factor 50 should do it, allegedly.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: UV

      I can guarantee that the SPECs cameras round our way are fitted with IR flood lights.

      Perhaps you'd care to elaborate on your micro dimple science.. or are you just trying to flog us some sort of number plate film snake oil.

      1. Purlieu

        Re: UV

        sorry yes I meant to say IR ... I always get them mixed up

        but not as mixed up as making the jump to saying that I don't pay road tax ???

        1. Purlieu

          Re: slowing down

          The police have always maintained that the primary purpose of speed cameras is to slow the traffic down, so your point is ??

    2. Psyx
      Go

      Re: UV

      "So factor 50 should do it, allegedly."

      You could always try paying road tax and slowing down for ten seconds whenever you see a massive bright yellow box at the side of the road, instead.

  15. Magister
    Coat

    Details

    One thing to consider; for some while a few years ago, the police in Bristol admitted that they had real difficulties identifying who the owners of certain vehicles were; something in the region of 1 in 10 had no valid registered owner.

    Add to that, there are a lot of stolen / faked documents out there as well as stolen vehicles / vehicles officially scapped but rebuilt. Estimates vary according to who you talk to but the lowest figure is 100,000. For a while, there was also a fairly big trade in stolen number plates.

    The database doesn't really help them catch criminals; but it is of value in making it look like they are doing something with the money that they get from the public purse. And of course it is of use in identifying people that are guilty of civil offenses for which they can be fined...

    The one with the tin foil hood please.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ANPR was developed in NI as a means of tracking movements of vehicles.

    You can see them here on every main road and outside every fortress-like police station.

    Some people slow right down, believing them to be SPECS or other speed camera devices.

    Of course, they can do like they do to drive off with fuel, just use a fake plate and some other poor bugger gets the blame for whatever mischief they're up to!

  17. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    " 7.6 billion individual files."

    Why?

    Seriously WTF is holding the location of a car for at *least* 6 years going to achieve?

  18. JimmyPage Silver badge

    And another problem ...

    all of this technology (with it's associated eye-watering price tag) is only as effective as the database it sits on. I challenge anyone here, to tell me they can believe a non-trivial database can be anything more than 95% accurate at any given time. And that's before you start to look at people who *deliberately* salt it with duff data.

    An ex copper I knew explained some of the tricks the more pikey among us use to evade the law using a round-robin of address changes mainly. End result - the car looks legal, but you would never find the owner.

    On a related note, I wonder if they have done any sanity analysis on the data ? I would be curious to know what (if anything) would happen if the same vehicle was clocked in Glasgow and Penzance in the same hour ? Also, in arrangements, where all traffic has to pass in and out of an area via ANPR, do they have any orphaned records, where a car went in, but never came out ?

    I have always wanted to have a number plate changer, and drive past the first SPECS camera with one, and the second with another ...

  19. Graham Marsden
    Black Helicopters

    "a number plate could be modified...

    "to reduce the chances of detection by ANPR".

    Such as sticking a piece of electrical tape on to a P to make it look like an R, for instance?

    Damn these cunning high-tech criminals!!!

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: "a number plate could be modified...

      Great idea, until a passing plod or traffic warden (or just a neighbour or passing pedestrian with a grudge) sees the mod on your plates.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "a number plate could be modified...

        I'm surprised we don't have e-Ink plates yet.

  20. Herby Silver badge

    Then there is the "camera" fix.

    Here in the USA, we had (note had) speed cameras that would flash to take the picture of the license plate. Some inventive person built a detector and flashtube that would flash when flashed at. This would blind the speed camera and just have a white blotch where the plate should be. Then there was the multitude of court cases that indicated that you needed to identify the driver of the vehicle to issue the citation. All of these complications led municipalities to drop the camera altogether. They were more trouble (and didn't generate much revenue) than they were worth.

    So I guess we are a bit luckier than the UK.

    Yes, I still consider speed limits a mere suggestion. But there ARE sections in California that have a posted limit of 70 MPH, thank goodness. We also have a freeway that has loads of '85' signs, but they aren't speed limit signs like everybody assumes.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yellow?

    The photo at the head of the article includes a picture of a yellow camera, and I've seen a few comments referencing yellow cameras.

    Yellow ones are speed cameras, which are required (by law? by rule?) to be prominently visible.

    You won't even see the ANPR cameras unless you're looking carefully. They're not big, and there's no need for them to be yellow. If necessary they can be mounted on a lamp-post style tower, with a set of cameras photographing vehicle fronts and another set doing the backs. That may or may not be what's happening today, but it would be trivial to do, potentially improves the quality of the data, makes money for the ANPR providers, and means that hiding behind and in front of a big truck/bus becomes a higher risk tactic.

    Real criminals are already using ANPR-defeating mechanisms (insulting tape has already been mentioned, other options are available, the nice man down the pub will help).

  22. Wize

    "... to track motorists' movements in England and Wales"

    Is there something similar north of the border?

  23. The Axe
    Mushroom

    ANPR doesn't work

    It only notices the criminals as they go by the camera. Not much use for the police who still have to find them. Even dumb criminals know to dump the getaway cars.

    So if it doesn't catch real criminals who does it catch?

    The public who commit a minor crime that who. Those going 1mph over the speed limit set in the camera, or whose insurance record is not totally correct (computer says no), or whose driving license has been kept by the DVLA due to a cock up (frequent), etc.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ANPR doesn't work

      "The public who commit a minor crime that who. Those going 1mph over the speed limit set in the camera, or whose insurance record is not totally correct (computer says no), or whose driving license has been kept by the DVLA due to a cock up (frequent), etc."

      1mph over the set speed is more than 1mph over the speed limit, and any insurance/DVLA errors aren't going to get you fined. Having experienced both of the last two recently, and been let off more than a few speeding tickets by reasonable officers, I think that you are seeing an inhuman machine as the face of law enforcement where none exists.

  24. Andy The Hat Silver badge
    Stop

    ANPR by the back door

    The Traffic Master traffic speed cameras (blue ones) don't store vehicle specific information ... yet, a day after the event happened, the police were given full movements of a vehicle involved in a crime and it was tracked 50 miles to a car park. Who needs a police ANPR system to implement Big Brother when a private company can do it for you ...?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ANPR by the back door

      Not saying it didn't happen, but do you have more details or a reference for that?

      I thought TrafficMaster already admitted to storing all but two (maybe three) of the number plate characters, but I don't remember them admitting how long it was stored. Twenty minutes would seem more than adequate for traffic monitoring purposes.

      If they are keeping it for significantly longer (which would not be welcomed here), and if Plod ask for all matches to a pattern of their choice during a given interval, and Plod know where the vehicle was at a given time, it probably won't be too difficult to work out roughly where it went, and when, thereafter.

  25. Barrie Shepherd
    WTF?

    SO if the ANPR system is so good why;

    - are there still many stolen vehicles not detected until they turn up burnt out in a country lanes?

    - can my defense lawyer not ask for a listing of my movements, as detected by the APNR system, to demonstrate that it was unlikely that I committed a crime in Bristol, say, when I was driving towards Newcastle

    - are untaxed vehicles still untaxed

    ANPR will suffer (if has not already) scope creep towards the fully monitored population.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How to screw with APNR systems

    Make up some car plates, ensure the cameras are working.

    Ring your friend a mile down the road, he shows his plate to the camera,

    You then show your plate to the camera, hey presto Mach 1 car.

    Pick the plate of the local chief cunstable for extra fun.

    Don't believe this is currently lawful or not so check first,

  27. Hilibnist
    Coat

    Missing an opportunity

    Hang on, haven't Google already beaten them to the punch? They must have streetcammed a lot more of the number plates at their home location than the plod. Shouldn't there be some beneficial link between the two. Maybe they could come up with a way to cross reference number plates with emails from WiFi traffic in the area...

    Mine's the one with... oh never mind, it's a rubbish idea and it would never happen, would it?

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    France

    In France the MOT (Control Technique) sticker is not removable without destroying it, shows the expiry date.

    The insurance sticker is also displayed.

    No tax disc, its on the fuel cost.

    Failure to display either would be unwise.

    Implicitly the speed in urban areas and road works is 50kph, no signs needed, every one knows.

    Works for France, why not in the UK. (oh probably the invited by Jonny Foreigner syndrome)

    1. John H Woods

      Re: France

      "Implicitly the speed in urban areas and road works is 50kph, no signs needed, every one knows."

      Same rule in the UK: If you can see street lighting, and you cannot see contraindication signs, the speed limit is 30mph.

    2. Wize

      Re: France

      "Implicitly the speed in urban areas and road works is 50kph, no signs needed, every one knows"

      Not quite everyone. Having a UK driving licence allows me to drive in the rest of Europe without needing a further test.

      Most people in the UK probably don't know the implied speed limit in lieu of sineage in every single EU country.

      Plus all the quirks, like being able to turn right on a red light.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Isn't technology brilliant !

    7 e ink panels on the front, same on the rear, ANPR = no problem and as the plod are too fat and car bound to get out and actually question someone unless the computer tells them, I am free to drive wherever and whenever I want without being harassed.

  30. Alan Brown Silver badge

    ANPR locations

    Thanks to data deals done by the police, you can count among ANPR locations:

    Virtually every filling station in the UK

    Virtually every gated car park in the UK

    ANPR cameras are suprisingly cheap - and used by a lot of private companies. The police try and get feeds off every single one of them and permission is seldom if ever refused.

    The cameras you see are the ones they want you to see.

  31. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Tax discs and fake plates

    One bit of input on that score.

    The uninsured(*) driver who I T-Bboned as he ran a compulsary stop in Croydon during 2006 had credible(**) fake plates on his car - which the DVLA confirmed had never been issued. There was a matching fake tax disc on the windscreen which looked genuine and I found out later the car had 3 different VINs on it (windscreen, vs Firewall vs elsewhere on the car, apparently the genuine ones indicated the car had been scrapped 5 years previously)

    The cops attending who flagged the plates as fake said they reckon as many as one in 8 london cars has fake plates - mainly to avoid congestion charges.(***)

    (*) And unidentified - he and his mate ran off despite just having had a 30mph impact just in front of the A-pillar and the cops couldn't be arsed fingerprinting the interior or getting DNA from the bloodstains on the passenger door window.

    (**) There are formulas for plate numbering. Peter Sutcliffe got done because a copper noticed his plate was for a HGV, not a car/van, and a London copper should notice plates on a beat-up old Rover which weren't issued at Wimbledon.

    (***) There's probably an industry to be had from simply cruising the streets and impounding any such vehicles on the spot. It'd free up a lot of parking spaces if the numbers are really that high.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tax discs and fake plates

      I've reported untaxed vehicles near to me to the DVLA. 3 months later they are still there. UK car system = FAIL.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Tax discs and fake plates

        Don't report to the DVLA, just let your local fuzz know.

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Re: If I was in London

      I would have fake plates for the congestion zone

    3. Vic

      Re: Tax discs and fake plates

      > There are formulas for plate numbering

      There used to be; I'm pretty sure that's now been scrapped. You now have <area code><date code> <three random letters>

      Vic.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Tax discs and fake plates

        You're probably right, but take a closer look at the area codes.

        http://www.kingkong.demon.co.uk/where/gb.htm

        It's easy enough to reserve a few of the codes in each area for HGVs (if not being done already)

  32. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    numerology....

    7.6 billion *is* "over 7 billion". This is a standard technique here in the US politicians and such use to massage figures... going from a hard figure to a "soft" figure which makes it sound like something unpalateable has been reduced, or a "soft" figure that makes it sound like something is happening more than it is. If there's, say, 8.2 billion records now, and 7.6 billion then, some would say that 8.2 billion is "over 7 billion." Others may make it sound like the cameras are running overtime, they could decide to call that "almost 9 billion" or, why not, "almost 10 billion".

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ken, with the greatest possible respect

    You normally write a great deal of sense on the technical stuff, but here you are somewhat off beam.

    Why do you feel you can trust the police?

    E.g. The police are legally required to display ID when they are on duty. It's not unreasonable, and it's not difficult.

    Next time you see a picture of police on "public order" duty, especially if it's the Met and the TSG/SPG are out looking for a ruckus, see how many of them are displaying the legally required ID.

    I could understand if one or two of the dodgier ones were missing it.

    But it's not one or two.

    Often enough there's no police ID to be seen, anywhere.

    Which means it's not just the constables, it's more senior officers colluding too.

    If they can't be trusted with the basic simple things like that, what hope is there on anything more difficult?

    I won't even go down the Ian Tomlinson/Freddy Patel road, as it leads to places sensible people don't want to go.

    Maybe it's just the Met that are like this. I certainly hope so. But if it was just the Met, you'd perhaps hope the Federation might have a few words to say on the subject of dodgy coppering. After all, without the support of the public, the police don't really have a leg to stand on, especially right now when the Millionaires Cabinet is as happy cutting police numbers as they are cutting any other public sector numbers.

    But has anyone ever seen any sign of the Fed speaking out? Go on, amaze me. I don't even recall any sign of the police religious associations (eg Christian Police Association), who you might think might be concerned about things like truth, fairness, and justice, not to mention "commandments" such as "do not hurt other people" and "do not lie", having anything much to say about Tomlinson, de Menezes, etc.

    I wouldn't want to be a copper at the best of times. But I certainly wouldn't want to be a copper in the UK, now.

    1. Vic

      Re: Ken, with the greatest possible respect

      > Maybe it's just the Met that are like this

      There are dodgy coppers all around.

      I kept an old banger running for at least three years after it ought to have been trashed. I lived next door to a DC, and he always knew where to go to get an MOT for it...

      Vic.

    2. William Old
      Megaphone

      Re: Ken, with the greatest possible respect

      Nice rant, but it's based on bollocks.

      "The police are legally required to display ID when they are on duty." No, they aren't. Care to post exact details of the legislation that enacts this alleged requirement? I will give you a clue... don't waste your time looking. If an officer of constable or sergeant rank doesn't display their "FIN"- force identification number (in the Met, their District number) - then it's likely to be a disciplinary matter, depending on the circumstances. But there's no law requiring it.

      Officers above the rank of sergeant don't have numbers as part of their uniform badges of rank, but some might have a badge that display their FIN. And if the officers comprise a Police Support Unit (PSU), then their Force Standing Orders will probably make different requirements... but again, the law is silent on this.

      Another armchair expert. Sigh.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "based on bollocks"

        You may be right. I may have got the detail wrong (sorry), and at least for now I stand corrected.

        Armchair expert or not: can you give me two good reasons why should we trust the police in general when there is so much evidence that we shouldn't?

        Metropolitan Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson reportedly ordered the feet on the street to display their ID. And the Metropolitan Police Authority thought that was a good idea too. The feet on the street didn't think so, and didn't co-operate.

        Do readers know anyone outside Plod and close associates who does think it's OK for the police not to display their ID?

        Actually, it's ex Commissioner Stephenson now isn't it. He resigned in 2011 in the wake of the Murdoch phone tapping non-investigation scandal (after Stephenson received £12K worth of free hospitality from a Murdoch associate who had been arrested in connection with Operation Weeting).

        Another fine example of police trustworthiness, right?

  34. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  35. Starkadder

    It is just plain illegal and shoud be stopped

    I have a right to privacy under the European convention on Human Rights. As a European citizen I also have the right to travel freely freely wherever I want to go in the European Union. The whole ANPR system is illegal, as it spies on citizens who are not suspects and stores information about them which is private (i.e. their legal journeys). It should be scrapped. I am amazed that it is allowed to stay in operation. I am also a California resident and know that any such system would never be allowed by Californians, who actually believe in their ability to have a private life.

    1. William Old
      WTF?

      Re: It is just plain illegal and shoud be stopped

      Of course you have a right to privacy... but not in a public place. I can assure you that there is not a single ANPR camera inside your residence!

      I challenge you to stop puffing about something that you have clearly never read, and identify exactly which part of the Convention (or that part of the domestic legislation that implements the Convention Rights in your particular EC state - in the UK it's the Human Rights Act 2000) prohibits the use of these cameras?

      At least you are obviously not a lawyer... that much goes to your credit... but of course, your admission to being a Californian resident does explain a lot... :)

  36. James Gosling
    Mushroom

    The United Kingdom is fast becoming a police state

    How did this happen?

    Who’s to blame?

    Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn’t be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to [insert name of government official]

    He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent.

    Last night I sought to end that silence. Last night I destroyed the Old Bailey, to remind this country of what it has forgotten. More than four hundred years ago a great citizen wished to embed the fifth of November forever in our memory. His hope was to remind the world that fairness, justice, and freedom are more than words, they are perspectives.

    So if you’ve seen nothing, if the crimes of this government remain unknown to you then I would suggest you allow the fifth of November to pass unmarked. But if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, and if you would seek as I seek, then I ask you to stand beside me one year from tonight, outside the gates of Parliament, and together we shall give them a fifth of November that shall never, ever be forgot.

  37. William Old
    FAIL

    The editor's "Bootnote" is just plain completely WRONG!

    I don't know where he or she got his information, but it's complete tosh - no ANPR system in use in the UK uses induction loops - maybe they've become confused with the triggers for unmanned speed cameras??

    For an IT-focussed site, it's an incredible display of complete ignorance about the subject, and appears to have been grandstanding for no real reason.

    And the original reporting (although it hardly merits being described as "reporting") is just as shoddy... the phrase "riddled with flaws" seems to be a sub-editors fantasy... the actual "flaw", according to all of the original submissions, is simply that there is no national strategy for their location so there are not enough in the right places. Hardly "riddled with flaws". But the situation can easily be sorted by central funding for more cameras, and a national strategy for identifying sites for the new ones... :)

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ANPR Cameras

    ANPR Cameras are not as noticeable as you might think:

    On Traffic Signals (unit on right)

    On Major Roads(monitors 6 lanes)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ANPR Cameras

      Oh for an edit.. that's 4 Lanes not 6...

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