back to article Met Police wants to keep billions of number plate scans after cutoff date

The Met Police has said it must retain billions of Automatic Number Plate Recognition scans on a colossal database beyond the agreed period of two years. Last year the legality of the ANPR database was called into question by the Surveillance Camera Commissioner. The National ANPR data centre now holds information on 22 …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Show us evidence..

    A simple question: is there any evidence to support these all too glib statements that retention is needed to solve crimes? Working slow is not an argument for retention either.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Show us evidence..

      It puts a car in an area, that car may be registered to someone who previously committed a crime.....doesn't prove they were driving re: the cyclist deliberately knocked off by the Volvo...less than a month old crime with CCTV and CCTV of witnesses number plates yet they cannot get enough evidence to prosecute

      I call "Big Brother" on their reasons here, just like on the DNA and fingerprint databases

      1. JohnMurray

        Re: Show us evidence..

        Then they get an S172 (identify driver at time/date) ticket off the police.

        1. AndyS

          Re: Show us evidence..

          @John, the issue then is that the maximum penalty for refusing to comply is often very significantly under the likely penalty for the crime being investigated - as was the case with the cyclist and the Volvo. Don't talk? Slap on the wrist. Talk? Go directly to jail.

          I guess one alternative would be to make refusing to cooperate carry the same penalty as the crime being investigated, but that sounds pretty draconian, and would doubtless lead to much larger problems.

          1. h4rm0ny

            Re: Show us evidence..

            >>"I guess one alternative would be to make refusing to cooperate carry the same penalty as the crime being investigated, but that sounds pretty draconian, and would doubtless lead to much larger problems."

            It does. For one, it's a very short step from refusing to co-operate and being an end-run around innocent until proven guilty. Basically, you decide someone is guilty (cannot prove it), they wont give you the evidence you want to show that they are guilty (they may or may not have such), you can apply a sentence as if they were guilty anyway.

            There's a quote from an old movie: "A policeman's job is only easy in a police state." And that's something overlooked by the OP when they demand it be proven that this collection of data actually helps stop crime. It's a valid point, but of course if you collect data on everything you can find examples of it being useful sometimes. The real point is whether we are willing to accept these meagre benefits in exchange for giving the State massive power over us.

            Violent crime is decreasing, we should be looking at less pressure to monitor and track everybody. Instead, we are seeing vastly more pressure to do so. Why is that? I leave that question for others.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Show us evidence..

          The driver got an S172 and received 6 penalty point and a £150 fine. The fact that the driver had driving very dangerously, (deliberately?) knocking the cyclist off, necessitating four months of recovery and didn't stop means that they got off very lightly.

          S172 is fine for minor speeding offences etc but when it is something more serious then it it an easy win for the driver.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Show us evidence..

            "The driver got an S172"

            No, the hirer got the ticket and refused to say who was driving. In the absence of evidence there's no proof that the hirer was also the driver. That's the problem.

            1. Adam 52 Silver badge

              Re: Show us evidence..

              You know what, I'm not sure that excuse would've worked in a murder enquiry. Or sny inquiry that the police were taking seriously.

              Someone might have done some investigation into who else could possibly have been driving. Or they may have put the evidence before a jury to let them decide the liklihood that the hirer wasn't driving.

              But this was a motoring offence, so wasn't investigated properly. A crime got recorded and solved so everyone involved meets their target.

              1. LucreLout Silver badge

                Re: Show us evidence..

                @Adam

                You know what, I'm not sure that excuse would've worked in a murder enquiry. Or sny inquiry that the police were taking seriously.

                I'm sure they took it seriously. Let's say I hire a vehicle which then has an accident at which it fails to stop, and let's say I was driving. I ask my wife to sit in the car, then I adjust the seat all the way back and to an odd angle. When the police find the car, any forensics will at best tell them that both of us say in the seat at some point. If there are no images showing the drivers face, and there are no eyewitnesses, there's really not a lot the police can do. Provided my Mrs was in the car at the time, even her mobile will be pinging the right towers to have been driving.

                Or they may have put the evidence before a jury to let them decide the liklihood that the hirer wasn't driving.

                Unfortunately the costs involved in our legal system make speculative trials unaffordable. The CPS, rather than the police, would be the bottleneck here anyway as they decide whether to charge and proceed to trial or not. And the CPS are the least competent arm of the state I've ever had dealings with, and I say that having dealt with the DVLA, tax man, and passport office regularly.

                All that being said, what happened to that cyclist is outrageous. The driver has no place on the roads now or at any time in the future. Unfortunately proving beyond reasonable doubt who was driving is likely to be impossible at this time.

                In the end, there is no justice but that which we take for ourselves.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Show us evidence..

            Refusal to answer a S172 should result in an application to compel in a magistrate's court.

            The fun thing about contempt of court is that a judge can toss you in a cell and pretty much leave you there until you decide to comply.

            1. DavCrav Silver badge

              Re: Show us evidence..

              "Refusal to answer a S172 should result in an application to compel in a magistrate's court.

              The fun thing about contempt of court is that a judge can toss you in a cell and pretty much leave you there until you decide to comply."

              See a previous poster as to why this sort of bullshit leads quickly to a police state. You have to accept, along with such things as innocent-unless-proved-guilty, that sometimes people will get away with crimes. If you start making refusal or inability to testify subject to an indefinite jail sentence, that's a quick way to end up with political prisoners. Someone you don't like, who the police want to fit up for something? No problem, just S172 the guy for a Thursday afternoon a few years ago, when he can't possibly give a correct answer. And you'll know someone was driving then, because you've helpfully kept all ANPR data from that far ago, against the guidelines.

              1. bazza Silver badge

                Re: Show us evidence..

                No problem, just S172 the guy for a Thursday afternoon a few years ago, when he can't possibly give a correct answer.

                The law guards against that kind of thing. That's why speeding tickets have to be issued within 2weeks.

                The law got changed when the Hamiltons got caught speeding but nothing was done for 6 months. They argued, quite reasonably, in court that they could not be expected to remember who was driving that long ago. Law got changed.

                The 'reasonable doubt' thing applies.

                1. DavCrav Silver badge

                  Re: Show us evidence..

                  "The law guards against that kind of thing. That's why speeding tickets have to be issued within 2weeks."

                  Well yes (although I think it's slightly longer than two weeks, I think six months for the whole process, I could be wrong). However, the OP was suggesting changing the law. Arguments starting 'the law currently says' can't be used, therefore.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Show us evidence..

                "See a previous poster as to why this sort of bullshit leads quickly to a police state. You have to accept, along with such things as innocent-unless-proved-guilty, that sometimes people will get away with crimes. If you start making refusal or inability to testify subject to an indefinite jail sentence, that's a quick way to end up with political prisoners."

                And yet, if you genuinely forget the password for an encrypted file on a system you haven't used for some time then that's exactly what can happen. Locked up for a long time.

                1. DavCrav Silver badge

                  Re: Show us evidence..

                  "And yet, if you genuinely forget the password for an encrypted file on a system you haven't used for some time then that's exactly what can happen. Locked up for a long time."

                  Indeed. Perhaps we should look at having fewer such laws, not more of them?

        3. Andrew Taylor 1

          Re: Show us evidence..

          And that's all, see attached link for outcome of the hit & run referred to http://road.cc/content/news/178248-nottingham-hit-and-run-victim-believes-driver-could-have-been-identified-if

    2. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: Show us evidence..

      is there any evidence to support these all too glib statements that retention is needed to solve crimes?

      I was wondering that too. Maybe they can cite a case, lets start with just the one, where this has been the decisive factor in bringing a criminal to justice.

      From the article :- "the Met said it needs to keep some ANPR data for longer than two years in order to investigate unsolved cases, investigate linked offences, enable reinvestigation and the late reporting of crime."

      Lets take that at face value for now, as I can see how someone apprehended years after a crime, for a separate crime, could feasibly be linked by tracking the movement of vehicles they previously owned or had access to.

      This has to be balanced by the other side of the coin surely? How is the data going to be secured indefinitely; what other purposes or crimes, beyond the serious Levi Belfield level, will this be used for; how is this to be weighed against the obvious privacy concerns?

      Giving the police the benefit of the doubt as to why they need the data != giving them the data. Seems to me that it would be more appropriate to have a public consultation (it IS our data after all), followed by some robust debate, before reaching a decision here.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Prediction

    One day, someone, somewhere, will use data contained within a database such as the ANPR to get acquitted.

    They will do it, because they will leverage the polices religious belief in "the data" against them, and argue that *if* the database is as perfect as the police claim, then the exculpatory evidence it provides *must* be true. It would take a sharp barrister, but the question will be framed as "can we trust the data held in the ANPR database." If the answer is "yes" my client walks. If the answer is "no" then (a) what about all those previous convictions, and (b) what was the point ?

    When that day happens, some people will question the wisdom of collecting so much data.

    I forsee similar issues with the massive DNA sweep. Eventually, the law of numbers will lead to a case where *2* matches are found (if not more) at which point the defendant gets a free pass.

    1. Afernie

      Re: Prediction

      "I forsee similar issues with the massive DNA sweep. Eventually, the law of numbers will lead to a case where *2* matches are found (if not more) at which point the defendant gets a free pass."

      To say nothing of the possibility that scene poisoning with hoovered caches of DNA (skin flakes/hairs/etc) might well become a standard arrow in the criminal's quiver if the Police rely on it too much.

      1. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge

        Re: Prediction

        Scene poisoning with foreign DNA is already an item in the enterprising burglar's tool kit. How it works is quite simple.

        To start with, a burglar visits the smokers' corner of a notably dodgy pub after hours, and collects cigarette ends, most of which will have been smoked by persons on the police DNA register. Said evidence is carefully bagged and retained.

        When our burglar is next out thieving, he takes care not to smoke himself, but to leave several of the carefully-collected fag-ends around the exterior and interior of the property he is burgling. This then gives the police an easy lead as to who has committed the crime.

        In court, the standard "odds of X million to one again" canard is presented, and the previous bad character of whichever numpty has been fingered, together with his lack of an alibi for the time in question, lead to said numpty getting falsely convicted. More tellingly, the real culprit gets away as the police have already "caught" the culprit and thus feel no need to look any further.

        1. DrD'eath

          Re: Prediction

          Just as important to remove evidence

          http://biogenfutur.es

          As it is to make sure the 'right' DNA is found.

          http://www.worldcat.org/title/detection-and-characterisation-of-forensic-dna-profiles-manipulated-by-the-addition-of-pcr-amplicons/oclc/816391905

    2. Doctor_Wibble
      Boffin

      Re: Prediction

      > Eventually, the law of numbers will lead to a case where *2* matches are found (if not more)

      I'm rather fond of pointing the Birthday Paradox at this one. I might be misguided in doing so but have either been ignored or so outrageously wrong that nobody has bothered...

      For a wrong match in a 'one in a billion' level of detail, 37233 samples gives you a 50-50 chance of having two that match on that basis, 117540 samples gives you 99.9% chance that two will match, note these are *incorrect* matches of random samples.

      Different if you have a database of 50 million samples and you have one that you want to match to a perp, on the same one in a billion basis, you have a 5% chance of a match that looks right but is *wrong* and by the time you have convinced the jury that DNA evidence is not infallible you are already marked as 'no smoke without fire'.

      The above (horribly summarised, sorry) assumes DNA is evenly random when we know it isn't (even those 'junk' bits), and if it's all horribly wrong then please post correct figures, show your working etc, I'd rather be corrected than continue to be wrong!

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Prediction

        Don't worry. The CIPA is moving towards eliminating the compulsory disclosure of all evidence, exculpatory or otherwise, to the defence council, whilst simultaneously compelling defendants into revealing all the details of their defence.

        Thus we end up with a situation where A is accused of assaulting B in a park. A's defence is entered as "self-defence", prosecution then enter the defence disclosure document as evidence, eliminating the need to prove that A was even at the scene. This has already happened. The law lords told the Monkeys of Parliament that there was only the need to enter into the defence disclosure documents the details of the prosecution case that were disputed. This satisfies, they said, the right of the accused not to implicate themselves. But, of course, by revealing everything that is disputed, one also reveals that which is not disputed and this 'lack of dispute' is legally allowed to be entered as evidence by the prosecution. One can no longer simply refuse to comply with prosecution or court requests on the grounds that it is your choice not to cooperate - to do so carries a legally sanctioned penalty. The UK justice system tramples over the Human Rights Act (in Europe, section 6 - there are many other declarations of a similar nature so violated). However, all this complaint doesn't address, for example, the French system of inquisitorial trial, which seems to cope just fine.

        1. Neverwas

          Re: Prediction

          If "The UK justice system tramples over the Human Rights Act" then the UK will get a good kicking in Strasbourg and prosecutions will be unsafe. But AFAIK the European Court of Human Rights has looked at disclosuree and not seen problems so far - eg holding that whether there is a breach of Article 6 has to be looked at in the context of the case as a whole.

          PS

          While I recognise the legal point about right to silence etc I'm not sure the example of A claiming "I did it in self-defence" but then switching to argue "I wasn't there" after seeing every piece of prosecution evidence is likely to command a great deal of public support.

    3. h4rm0ny

      Re: Prediction

      >>"One day, someone, somewhere, will use data contained within a database such as the ANPR to get acquitted."

      This presumes that the public / accused get the same level of access to the data as the state / police. That seems unlikely.

    4. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Prediction

      No, because the required data will unfortunately not be able to be located.

    5. LucreLout Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Prediction

      @AC

      All ANPR proves is that a vehicle carrying that registration plate was in an area at a particular time. Relying on that for a legal defence would be very weak, as there's no evidence you were in it. The police would use that clue to narrow the search for better evidence rather than evidence itself - except where they use it for speed/parking/insurance and other vehicle based crime.

      In your example the prosecutor would simply rebut the lack of evidence the defendant was in the vehicle at that time. Not a great defence.

      I forsee similar issues with the massive DNA sweep. Eventually, the law of numbers will lead to a case where *2* matches are found (if not more) at which point the defendant gets a free pass.

      At that point other evidence will be found. Take the case of twins, prior to the RNA breakthrough. Identical DNA, so if one is in the system, the other is too. Where DNA places one twin at a crime scene, it may be other evidence places the other somewhere else entirely. Where that isn't perfect, the criminal already gets a free pass - the reason I recall the RNA thing is because of a case where twins blamed each other for a rape, apparently with the intent that neither could then be charged. That worked for years before RNA proved which twin had committed the crime.

      Not every criminal gets caught, certainly not every crime is solved, but it has always been that way. A large DNA database would identify more criminals than it will find multiple matches. Even dropping all of the latter, it would drive a huge increase in crime detection; a universal DNA database would all but prevent many crimes due tot he ease of identification of offenders.

      However, that is only one variable in a complex equation; what about privacy, data accuracy, and all the other downsides that also need to be weighed in such a decision. There are many valid arguments against both ANPR retention/collection, and a DNA database, but I'm sorry to say that your arguments as presented are not among them.

      Beer icon, because not agreeing with your line of argument is not the same as not agreeing with your sentiments.

  3. 2460 Something

    I don't think anyone is surprised though. Once you give them a massive database what were the odds of them voluntarily giving up any part of it? I wonder how much the storage budget has increased by to sit all this on. Given their current funding constraints in a few years there won't be anyone employed to even look at the data but they will have some nice shiny storage farms to show off to the MPs.

    Of course as with all of these things the Police just want to use them as new revenue streams. so how long before we find out they have been selling access to the data? Maybe that's why they are really keeping it.

    1. JohnMurray

      Quite. It would be interesting to know what local councils get from ANPR. After all, my town is plastered with average speed cameras, anpr cameras, traffic lights with cameras on top (even cameras watching cameras!)

    2. Salts

      @2460

      Nope, there will be no "nice shiny storage farms" they will store the database in the cloud and Amazon/Google/MS/American Cloud Company will take all the tax payers money and say the deal was done in Ireland and no tax will be paid. The database will be out sourced to an American company who will charge a fortune, make it look shiny but it won't ever work properly, the Met will continue to claim that it is absolutely necessary as part of their crime fighting arsenal and tax payers money will continue to be lost :-(

  4. John Munyard

    Frankly the level of competence demonstrated by the Police in it's management of this fairly simple issue raises serious concerns about their suitability to uphold the laws of our country. Whether they be unbelieveably incompetent or smugly arrogant the problem is the same.

  5. Gordon861

    ANPR FOI

    As the police is a public organisation and subject to FOI requests, along with the fact that you can FOI copies of video footage taken of you by the police.

    Can a member of the public make an FOI request for the ANPR data held on their vehicle? I could understand the need to prove that you own the vehicle etc.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ANPR FOI

      OK it was ACPO Ltd, and they have subsequently changed the name to protect the guilty, but Plod has authoritatively said that under no circumstances whatsoever would they ever release any ANPR data to the data subject, not even if it was necessary in the data subject's defence in court proceedings. You see it would reveal the extent of what the Plod knows about the data subject and that could interfere with their ability to prevent and detect crime.

      So piss off crim. Data Protection Act doesn't apply to Plod, and though FOI now does it has so many exceptions you'd be excused for thinking that Plod wanted to be above the law.

      Sorry the ANPR announcement was made when they upped the data retention period from 1 year to 2 years and I don't have the reference.

    2. David Pollard

      Re: ANPR FOI

      My own experience of FoI in another area is that the police are generally unwilling to provide any information at all to members of the public; and that a range of 'acceptable' excuses for denial is available, more or less as boiler-plate text.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "lives would have been lost and many serious crimes would not have been solved"

    Which lives were those? Mr and Mrs PulledAFalseClaimFromMyAss? And what crimes? Ones where startling new evidence comes forward 6 years after the fact which requires a number plate at GPS coordinate 1.2937464 764234234 at 10:52:14am of the 30 September 2010? Man lucky you kept EVERYONES travel data just in case.

    Can I remind you of this:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parliament_of_the_United_Kingdom

    "The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the UK Parliament or the British Parliament, is the SUPREME legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories.[3] It ALONE possesses legislative SUPREMACY and thereby ultimate power over all other political bodies in the UK and its territories."

    When you plot to overrule Parliament, the MPs and the people who elect them, you are facing down the democracy. These choices were never the METs to make, they were never the Home Offices to make and a Commissioner cannot green light a power he does not hold.

    Was this by any chance a decision of Lord Blairs? The ex MET officer who, as head of the anti-terror force would have known about the mass surveillance, even as he was slipping Snoopers Charter into a Lords Amendment?? Or some other Judge Dredd figure?

    And when the courts are argument over the wording of the Parliamentary passed laws, which you lot don't follow anyway, what is the purpose of the courts and legal challenges? Why do we have votes and elect politicians if they don't have the power to pass laws that the police will follow?

    1. Kurt Meyer

      @ AC

      Well said. The same is happening on this side of the Atlantic. I sincerely wish you all, the best of British luck in your efforts to defeat these would be overlords.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They keeping all their photocopier ass scans from Xmas parties too I hope? Can't be too careful ;)

  8. Falmari

    The Met will continue to beat information out of suspects in police custody on the grounds of "lives would have been lost and many serious crimes would not have been solved"

  9. Cynical Observer
    FAIL

    One rule for you ....

    and one for the police.

    This fits into the same category as the Chief Constable who freely admitted that the force (Durham in that instance) was keeping lots of photographs without due authorisation.

    Oh for a set of regulations and a regulator which could bring these cowboys under control.

    <Wobbly Screen, Imaginary scene effect>

    Yes Chief Constable, you can flout the regulations and try to justify why they don't apply to you, but when you are proven you be incorrect and at fault, you as the determining influence will be held responsible. You will be prosecuted under the regulations and as you have already admitted that you are putting two fingers up to the regulations/law, you will struggle to maintain your innocence.

    Penalties may include up to 5 years in prison and unlimited fines.

    </Wobbly Screen, Imaginary scene effect>

    1. Bernard M. Orwell

      Re: One rule for you ....

      "</Wobbly Screen, Imaginary scene effect>"

      Where did you get a CGI budget for your posts?! Must've cost a fortune!

  10. steamnut

    Why are we surprised?

    I'm sure the Police knew all along that they would keep the data for longer. I suspect that every database they use is abused in this way. If they caught then the "oops we forgot" or "there are no clear guidelines" ploy is used.

    Time for LCD number plates I think...

    1. Trainee grumpy old ****

      Re: Why are we surprised?

      >> If they caught then the "oops we forgot" or "there are no clear guidelines" ploy is used.

      you forgot "no one is above the law(*)" and "lessons will be learned".

      (*) exceptionsapplyseefineprintburiedinafootnoteonpage94

  11. Wommit

    About time the police realised that they enforce the law, they are not THE LAW.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have a simple condition..

    Any, and by that I mean ANY attempt to retain data is illegal until such time as previous, pretty damn clear breaches of established legislation have been addressed and those breaking the rules have been held accountable, irrespective of rank and parliamentary privilege. Do that, and there is scope for this to be considered.

    As a rule, only AFTER it has been demonstrated that accountability is restored may retention begin, and that starts in the test period with the data of those who propose said retention which is then used in line with the expected purpose. After 6 months, an FOI of a similar nature as the voters may expect will be issued and the data reviewed, after which the proposed legislation is introduced for a trial period of two years. Data collection of the proposers continues during that period to ensure they pay attention.

    Yes, I know that's never going to happen, but f*ck any idiot who thinks he or she can wantonly collect data on me without me starting to f*ck around with their technology, processes and laws involved. I've had enough.

  13. Incredulous

    This data is increasingly useless...

    I believe there's an increasingly popular sport - that of nicking people's registration plates. I cannot imagine that this is because of some form of low-budget children's play where the one that collects the most registration numbers wins. Rather, these plates are going to be used in the process of some crime or other. Perversely, this also buys the victim of number plate theft an excuse to duck any parking/speeding/red-light/etc tickets they might acquire once they replace their plates. The fact is that number plates are being duplicated all the time, and eventually we end up with a database costing millions - nay billions - which can only be used somewhat dissolutely as a way of prosecuting trivial offences for the remaining and relatively law abiding population. The serious criminal will, after all, use stolen plates.

    Only last week, my neighbour opposite had his plates pinched.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: This data is increasingly useless...

      Big Chief Eye Spy badges all round?

      At the moment, I don't care if they have a record of all the times I've gone to Tesco or visited my mum. One day, I might change my mind. Or I might not.

      1. Commswonk Silver badge

        Re: This data is increasingly useless...

        Number plate theft aside the longer the database stays in use the greater will be the number of vehicles recorded in it that have actually been dispatched to the Great Car Park in the Sky.

        Similarly the number of cars that will have changed ownership will get greater and greater, meaning that more and more totally innocent motorists (if such people actually exist) will be having their movements watched and recorded* for no useful purpose whatsoever.

        So the database will actually record a whole shed - load of increasingly out of date and pointless information.

        *Please resist the temptation to comment on the choice of words...

        1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

          Re: This data is increasingly useless...

          > Similarly the number of cars that will have changed ownership will get greater and greater, meaning that more and more totally innocent motorists (if such people actually exist) will be having their movements watched and recorded* for no useful purpose whatsoever.

          But they also have the DVLA records, so they can look up who the registered keeper was at the time the vehicle was recorded.

      2. Graham Marsden
        Facepalm

        @TRT - Re: This data is increasingly useless...

        > One day, I might change my mind. Or I might not.

        Let me guess, you have Nothing To Hide (tm)...

        "Excuse me, Mr TRT, a vehicle with your number plate was spotted at XYZ location, right next to where a serious offence of child abduction was committed. Do you have anything to prove that you *weren't* there? What's that you say? It's 300 miles away from your home? Doesn't matter, you have no alibi, therefore you are under arrest and, as part of our evidence gathering we'll take your DNA, sieze your phone, your computer and interview your neighbours and your co-workers and boss and make sure they know why we arrested you..."

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: @TRT - This data is increasingly useless...

          "right next to where a serious offence of child abduction was committed. "

          (1) If a track of number plates from an ANPR camera helped locate an abducted child, yay!

          (2) Equally possible that cloned plates could pop up in two different places at once.

          (3) They've got my DNA on file anyway.

          (4) We're talking historic data here. Admittedly, I tend to forget what I was up to last week so remembering what I was up to three years ago... One would hope that CCTV or ANPR records from a child abduction case would be examined BEFORE the time scale we're talking about in this article.

          Like I say, I reserve the right to change my mind about the "nothing to hide" point of view in the future should it affect me. There are far more erosions of privacy and infringement of human rights going on without worrying about this. Tip of the iceberg this is.

          1. Graham Marsden
            Big Brother

            Re: @TRT - This data is increasingly useless...

            > (1) If a track of number plates from an ANPR camera helped locate an abducted child, yay!

            This sort of speculative argument is a main plank of the Police's excuses explanation for why they want to keep all that data and snoop on us all.

            But, like all the other such hypothetical scenarious and wiith all the ANPR data that's been collected already, has this *ever* happened...?

            "Well, it's never happened yet, but it *could* possibly, one day"

            It's not very convincing, yet people keep falling for it.

            > There are far more erosions of privacy and infringement of human rights going on without worrying about this.

            But each one *needs* to be highlighted and opposed and every time someone says "I don't have a problem with it", let alone "I have nothing to hide..." it's another victory for those who feel that only a 100% Surveillance State will make their little empires us "safe".

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @TRT - This data is increasingly useless...

          "Do you have anything to prove that you *weren't* there?"

          As I noted above, Plod has ruled that records will NOT be released to the data subject, therefore other relevant ANPR records will be overlooked. New rules now release Plod from any obligation to tell the defence about evidence that does not support the prosecution's case. Defence must still declare all to the prosecution.

          "... therefore you are under arrest and, as part of our evidence gathering ..."

          The "arrest first and then we will see if we can 'find' any evidence" approach being taken by the NCA under the guidance of its new chief (formerly from Surrey where she applied the technique).

          Operation Midland seems to have had a fair few instances of that.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: This data is increasingly useless...

      "Only last week, my neighbour opposite had his plates pinched."

      The thing is, stolen plates are cancelled when notified, then put on ANPR watch, which means that the only people who steal them are either stupid as all get-out or simply aiming to piss you off with mindless vandalism (usually the latter)

      Smart crooks duplicate the plates from the same model/year/colour of car and don't touch the originals.

      For what it's worth, it's estimated that 11% of cars in London are on fake plates, lots of duplicates are circulating, etc - it's mainly to beat the congestion charge but it's clear that using plates as a way of tracking any individual already comes with numerous "gotchas" when the kinds of individuals the Met want to track are normally the kind who'd use duplicate plates (and probably change them periodically too)

  14. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Boffin

    returning to the DNA issue*

    Dr. Wibble is pretty much echoing my thinking, about the birthday paradox (the recent Challenger anniversary is a stark reminder of how easily statistics can be misunderstood).

    However, it goes a lot deeper than that. Starting with the problem that until such time as the UK has a credible life/death/in country register, there's no way to CLEAN the fucker.

    So slowly, and surely, the database will grow.

    And grow.

    So, fast forward to 2026, when the DNA database contains (say) 60,000,000 records. Including some dead. Some left the UK. Some moved.

    (Remember, the DNA database is a *hash* of the genome, not the entire genome itself).

    So a crime is committed, and DNA recovered. SOP runs it through the database, and - horror of horrors - 5 matches are returned. (The real horror is that it means the police now have to do some fucking police work). Of course the 4 spurious matches are a god-given gift to a lawyer who remembers that "reasonable doubt" is all that is needed for an acquittal. So the police have to try and eliminate the 4 spurious matches.

    My explanation of the DNA database it that it's like a surname, house number, and area-level postcode. Which means there will be lots of SMITH-16-NW in there.

    *presumably, the ANPR system has a link with the DVLA so scrapped cars are archived off. Or will it face the same degradation issues ?

    All this, in the face of my assertion that *any* non trivial database of personal data can never be more than 95% accurate. A rule of thumb I devised after seeing thousands of man-hours in a commercial organisation devoted (over summer) to calling every customer to update their details, and seeing the accuracy improve (from 90%) to 95%, only to slip to 90% within 2 months. Databases being snapshots of a transient reality.

    None of which is understood by the bottom-feeders in parliament, and their lickspittle civil servants who all dodged anything vaguely technical as "for the proles".

    We'll all be well fucked if it becomes possible to make DNA from scratch.

    1. Trainee grumpy old ****
      Black Helicopters

      Re: returning to the DNA issue*

      >> SOP runs it through the database, and - horror of horrors - 5 matches are returned.

      The cynic in me says they'll pick one of the 5 and keep schtum about the others.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: returning to the DNA issue*

        "The cynic in me says they'll pick one of the 5 and keep schtum about the others."

        Of course they will. No need to declare any doubt to the defence under new rules. So with hand on heart they can tell the court they have complied with the law in every respect.

  15. Graham Marsden
    Big Brother

    Translation...

    ... "We could, but we're not going to because it's too difficult and we *like* having lots of data about you..."

  16. Thrudd

    Only 2?

    I may be a little behind on the technology but last I heard the rate was only one in a million.

    What is the population in the greater metropolitan area now?

  17. GrumpyKiwi

    Of course they want to keep the data. It's the modus operandi of the modern era bureaucrat.

    "Waaaah, doing our job properly is hard. It cuts seriously into our 14 tea breaks, surfing for porn and stealing office supplies time. We demand the law be amended to make it easier for us to be a bunch of lazy bastards".

    Hence the demands for keeping every bit of data created ever and for being able to snoop on anything we do on the say so of a senior officer without all that hassle of convincing a judge and getting a warrant.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm more worried about the cost....

    I guess I'm one of those that doesn't really worry too much about the fact that someone has my picture when I've been driving through London (or wherever). It sounds like a cliche, but... I really do have nothing to hide and I (genuinely) don't believe that the state are out to fit me up!

    However... I have experience of the two leading ANPR systems. One uses an RDBMS to store the data in it's entirety (as in the entire image effectively as a BLOB) and the other one uses an RDBMS to store metadata and stores the image on a CIFS share. The problem with both of these systems is they are both horribly architecturally designed, and have no way of archiving so the data sits their in a "live" system growing and growing and growing. Several police forces now face the problem of backing up tens of terabytes of data, either using SAN replication solutions (and expensive disks) or traditional offsite backup (i.e. tape - a lot of them haven't got the bandwidth to stream the backup offsite, and their DataCentres are badly designed without dedicated links between them).

    Holding all of this data genuinely costs money - it shouldn't cost as much as it does, but given the poor architecture of the application(s) AND the poor infrastructure of many of the Police Forces it costs far more than it absolutely should. Money that frankly should be going to the front line - surely nobody would disagree with that?

    For me I can understand the argument from both sides about data retention. The recent Hatton Garden investigation relied heavily on CCTV and ANPR footage, fortunately it was (largely) solved within the 2 year retention requirement - but there is still a (red haired) suspect at large. Let's say in 3 years time that suspect is arrested on an unrelated crime but a vehicle registered to him for the past 5 years (after searching the database) shows he was at or near that scene at the time, whilst not conclusive it gives the Police the indication that it is worth investigating him further for that particular crime. Surely people see that too - no?

    1. Graham Marsden

      Re: I'm more worried about the cost....

      > The recent Hatton Garden investigation relied heavily on CCTV and ANPR footage,

      Good job it didn't rely on the burglar alarms that were switched off...

      > Let's say in 3 years time that suspect is arrested on an unrelated crime but a vehicle registered to him for the past 5 years (after searching the database) shows he was at or near that scene at the time, whilst not conclusive it gives the Police the indication that it is worth investigating him further for that particular crime. Surely people see that too - no?

      You (like many others) set up a hypothetical situation where, obviously, the "right" answer is the one that supports your position.

      However that still does not justify speculatively holding on to all that data for all that time *just in case* it might be useful at some unspecified point in the future when there is the danger of all that data being *ab*used in ways that threaten our privacy and civil liberties.

      "It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer" - Sir William Blackstone 1755

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm more worried about the cost....

      Anonymous Coward posted "... but... I really do have nothing to hide and I (genuinely) don't believe that the state are out to fit me up! ..."

      Do I really need to say any more?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All your data are belong to us

    Most people are not even aware that government are storing all of this information. They assume that it somehow only targets criminals and that their journeys are somehow never recorded.

    Nobody has ever been asked if this sensible or even desirable in a similar fashion to our DNA database. People seem to think that it only effects criminals and haven't realized that at a certain percentage the entire population will be covered through familial matching.

    I don't remember voting for the state to record everybody's journeys, DNA, and data

  20. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Gimp

    Sounds like bu***hit

    Is bu***hit

    Bottom line.

    "We have the disk to store that many numbers and we want to."

    Data fetishism.

    Still looks like a mental illness to me.

  21. Mark Simon

    Actually, it makes some sense …

    Given that it takes many years for some cases to get to court, and many more to finalise the case, it makes logical sense that evidence relating to the case, even in the discovery phase, needs to be available for quite some time. Destroying this evidence after 2 years is inconsistent with the inordinately long periods of time in the judicial process.

    The problem here is that there is no facility to keep only the appropriate data, which is, of course a serious design weakness.

    1. David Pollard

      Re: Actually, it makes some sense …

      keep only the appropriate data

      Initially when the DNA database was introduced, parliament had stipulated that records weren't to be stored and that it wasn't to be used for speculative trawls. It was not long before a weasel clause was added, in a Bill which few MPs would have understood and which made only a slight modification to the statute. This allowed records to be maintained indefinitely "for statistical purposes".

  22. msknight Silver badge

    Irony...

    ...the police car in the article photo has its number plate blanked.

    Just sayin'

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Devil

    Well?

    So who is going to be prosecuted for unlawfully retaining data beyond the time limit, Chief Constable?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    By the way...

    How long are posts retained on the register? Just curious

  25. David Pollard

    Waste of taxpayers' money

    In the case of my girlfriend/partner's murder, the massive search that ensued for the driver of a white or light coloured Morris Traveller was completely misdirected. The supposed sighting on which it was based had been, as best I can tell, at the wrong place and the wrong time. Neither of these details fitted properly with the facts as I know them.

    Given the number of wrongful convictions that occur it seems to me that opportunities for armchair detection trawls need stringent oversight. Something like the precautionary principle is needed here, that the easier it is to use a technology to get a conviction the more tightly it should be controlled.

  26. Lindsay T

    I wonder how the rest of us would fare if we argued that we could not comply with the data protection legislation because our database was so badly constructed that we could not delete data no longer required for our lawful purposes.

    1. Wommit

      @Lindsay T

      You are, of course, assuming that the bad design was accidental.

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