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

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

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

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

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

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

  2. Barticus

    You'll never leave.

    (We didn't burn him)

  3. graeme leggett

    sinisterly deliberate or incompetently deliberate

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

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

    1. Test Man
      Alert

      Re: sinisterly deliberate or incompetently deliberate

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

      1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

        Re: sinisterly deliberate or incompetently deliberate

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

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: sinisterly deliberate or incompetently deliberate

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

  4. boltar Silver badge

    Its not just in Royston

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

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

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: Its not just in Royston

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

      1. Z-Eden
        Facepalm

        Re: Its not just in Royston

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

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

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Its not just in Royston

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

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Its not just in Royston

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

      2. andreas koch
        Black Helicopters

        @ jonathanb - Re: Its not just in Royston

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

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

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

        1. smudge Silver badge
          Holmes

          @ andreas koch - Its not just in Royston

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

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

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

        2. Martin 15

          Re: @ jonathanb - Its not just in Royston

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

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

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

    2. Wyrdness

      Re: Its not just in Royston

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

      1. TeeCee Gold badge
        Meh

        Re: Its not just in Royston

        I'll fix that for you:

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

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Gimp

      Re: Its not just in Royston

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

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

      The got a good deal on more storage.

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

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

    4. JustWondering
      WTF?

      Re: Its not just in Royston

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

  5. AbelSoul

    this is local surveillance...

    ... for local people.

    1. Don Jefe
      Joke

      Re: this is local surveillance...

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

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's changed?

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

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: What's changed?

      It's even more stupid and overblown.

  7. Nigel 11

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

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

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

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

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

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

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

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

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

      2. P. Lee
        Devil

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

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

    3. Amorous Cowherder
      Big Brother

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

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

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

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Gimp

        @Amorous Cowherder

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

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

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

        A sane society would not kill or imprison such people.

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

        It's a condition, not a rational policy.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

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

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

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

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Ledswinger,

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

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

        1. Captain TickTock
          Boffin

          Challenging Average speed tickets

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

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

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Challenging Average speed tickets

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

            Maybe you should look up what 'average' means.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Challenging Average speed tickets

              Maybe you should look up what 'average' means

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

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

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

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

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

        1. Kiwi Silver badge

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

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

      3. Graham Cobb

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

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

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

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

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let us hope

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

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Let us hope

      What a lovely thought :)

      Completely without hope, but a lovely thought.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Let us hope

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

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

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

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And in Brum

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

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And in Brum

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

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

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And in Brum

        Out of boredom more than spite ?

        1. moiety

          Re: And in Brum

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

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

          1. Gray Ham

            Re: And in Brum

            @moiety

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

            1. moiety

              Re: And in Brum

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

              Thanks for the info.

  10. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    1984

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

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

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

  11. jellypappa
    Holmes

    not everyone is equal

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

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: not everyone is equal

      Aha, the arrogance of people who don't bother with history

      Salon Kitty anyone ?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How to defeat every ANPR camera...

    It's really really difficult...

    Nigh on impossible...

    There's probably no point in me telling you...

    What the hell... buy a motorcycle. No numberplate on the front so every ANPR camera I've ever seen doesn't work, same with 'average speed' cameras, always front facing.

    Only thing it doesn't work on is speed cameras, but then... bikers never speed, right...?

    1. Alfie Noakes
      Big Brother

      Re: How to defeat every ANPR camera...

      You obviously haven't driven on the A38 between Bassetts Pole and Weeford (near Birmingham) then.

      They installed rear-facing SPECS as part of a reduction in the speed limit of a safe out-of-town dual carriageway from 70mph to 60mph.

      Nowt to do with the regular bikers meets at "The Pole" every Tuesday night in summer! ;)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How to defeat every ANPR camera...

      Thermite.....

  13. Frankee Llonnygog

    Why pick on Royston?

    Seems like a pilot for something bigger

    1. Rukario

      Re: Why pick on Royston?

      Indeed, a pilot for something bigger.

      To see what changes need to be made to shut the ICO up before rolling out full ANPR 5-year retention nationwide.

  14. JohnMurray

    Took a while (13-06-2011):

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/06/13/anpr_plan_panned/

    And they'll ignore the decision anyway.

    Meanwhile, the grand-plan continues:

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2013-2014/0093/14093.pdf

  15. earl grey Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Whingers invited

    Hertfordshire Constabulary have invited all the whingers to drive through so they can gather your information and properly welcome you to their fair towne. You might be leaving with a few extra lumps and bumps, but they will gladly show you out.

  16. ElNumbre
    Thumb Up

    I always wondered...

    I always wondered, how does it handle car transporters where both the vehicle being transporter and the transporter itself's numberplate being visible to the evil eye-o-sauron?

    Come to think of it, what would happen if you plastered the back of your vehicle with numberplates, whilst still maintaining your 'true' plate in a visible and obvious way. What would the computer do? Can they flag to human operators for further vetting?

    1. jellypappa
      Mushroom

      Re: I always wondered...

      (thinks) why not get lots of people tostrap a number plate on their back, then run in and out of royston,

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: I always wondered...

      That happened in New York (IIRC)

      They had windsheild mounted transponders to pay the toll on a bridge/tunnel/freeway

      They sent the transponders out by Fedex

      The Fedex truck went through the bridge/tunnel/freeway multiple times on it's route

      Drivers were receiving fines for unpaid trips before they even received the transponder

      It took a long time and a lot of lawsuits to work out why !

  17. Tapeador

    I've been to Royston and

    can assure you 24hr ANPR is proportionate...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IR LED's

    Perhaps you might wish to make an IR LED floodlight. It is my understanding that may simply wash out the picture making it rather difficult to determine the plate number.

  19. Haku
    Trollface

    Troll them

    Make a couple of fake cardboard registration plates and slap them on a bicycle.

    What should the plate number be?

    P155 0FF

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    In Royston

    I believe you can buy Victory gin and Victory cigarettes.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whilst I am no fan of this

    Royston is the mid point between the m11 ands a1m and is a popular route with the travelling but no less valued members of society as they do there "work".

    Consequently the info is very useful when it comes to prosecuting them.

  22. OzBob

    Jaysus,

    "Enemy of the State" meets "The Worlds End".

  23. JaitcH
    WTF?

    No CCTV spokesman Charles Farrier said: "The ICO has validated our view that blanket vehicle tracking should have no place in a democratic society. The ANPR camera network amounts to an automated checkpoint system that is the stuff of totalitarianism."

    What this man forgets is the mindset of the British government which also runs Tempura - the slurp everything program (except Silent Circle, PGP and infra-red links)..

  24. Velv Silver badge

    Been here before

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/07/05/anpr_review_promise/

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    anon because....

    everyone with no tax or insurance already avoids the A505 between Baldock and Royston......infested with eight cameras, and some speed cameras, and patrolled by unmarked police cars. Better check with ASKMID.COM before you venture along there......

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: anon because....

      Not too bothered about the tax, as long as the MOT's ok and the vehicle's looked after properly (although the usual reason for lack of tax is that it's a death trap).

      I reckon a proportionate response to lack of Insurance would be a minimum 5 year's driving ban and 18 months in clink. I know too many people who've had their lives royally fucked over 'cos some useless scrote decided it was optional.

      1. JohnMurray

        Re: anon because....

        No MOT = no penalty points on conviction (fine max £1000, but usually £60 on a fixed penalty)

        MOT papers say "just because its MOT'ed doesn't mean it's OK"

        More NEW cars have safety problems than old cars.. (and when you find-out that the braking requirements for a 1975 car are a mile lower than for a 2013 car at an MOT....)

  26. Phil Holden 1

    Don't worry Tubbs, they won't get far...

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Driving in the UK is a pain

    I've just driven from the middle of Spain to the North of England, a trip I do anually, and the difference in roadworks always amazes me. Through Europe there were very few works going and when there were the traffic flow was acceptable and you can see people working. Then as soon as you hit England there are the same roadworks as last year, the year before and the year before that or more correctly the same cones, there generally wasn't any evidence that any work was in progress, no machinery ready and certainly no workforce(*). Then there are the stretches with cones on the side of the road possibly for future use but with speed restrictions already in force. Which reminds me that the only activity I did see was a man in a high visibility vest walking down the hard shoulder lifting cones and throwing them to the edge of the carriageway, yes, throwing them, and that was on the M1. Even after the cones have vanished the speed restriction continues for miles afterwards, why? (Rhetoric question)

    And to the topic of speed cameras. On this journey a visitor who returned with me had a GPS so for nothing more than curiosity I tried it. All the way to Calais the speed camera warning bleeped a few times. From Dover to London I took the less common A2 so not too bad. Around the M25 it sounded like a bee on meths and not much better on other major roads afterwards.

    With the all the cameras and constant lines of cones driving in the UK is a huge pain in the butt and the policy of blocking off a motorway for even a minor accident is asinine. Yup, I got caught for a few hours on the M6 and the next day the news reported another accident on the same stretch with even longer queues. After three weeks in the UK I'm glad to be home.

    (*)The A14 (M11-A1) seems to be an exception, the cones have gone but the cameras remain.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But...

    can't see the Laundry being too happy.

    Just think about all those cameras waiting Project Basilisk...

  29. a_mu

    12 weeks

    and its going to take them 12 weeks to turn them off ?

    what is that all about,

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