back to article ICO lets police maintain ANPR location secrecy

The Information Commissioner's Office has decided against forcing police to disclose the locations of vehicle tracking cameras. The ICO said that Devon and Cornwall Police was correct in refusing to provide the locations of automatic numberplate recognition cameras (ANPR) that it ran in its area following a Freedom of …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. ShaggyDoggy


    They can't deploy ANPR in Lincolnshire - not enough bushes

  2. Eponymous Cowherd
    Big Brother

    The difference between law enforcement and surveillance.

    Automatically reading a numberplate and checking if the vehicle in question is taxed, insured, isn't stolen and doesn't have any other markers associated with it. That's law enforcement.

    Automatically reading a numberplate and storing a record of where and when the vehicle was seen for two years. That's surveillance.

    The first is acceptable, the second isn't.

  3. JaitcH

    One branch of government covering another's a*se

    This sort of activity causes the government to be held in contempt, as well as the police and the ICO.

    It simply highlights that the police think they are above the law and the ICO is confirming it.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No surprise...

    Though ANPR is a good thing for intercepting tax/mot/insurance dodgers, some of it's other uses are less clear cut.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Which way did that scally go mate?

    Sorry Officer I am unable to disclose information of a personal nature, it would break the data protection act .... yes, I know I haven't got a computer on me, but neither did that desk pen pusher who i asked for help when someone took off my wing mirror off my car - I had their number plate and your desk pen pusher told me to pi$$ off.

    Not quite so nice when you get it? Mind if I take your photo copper? Oh! yes those hand cuffs do look nice on my wrists

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    How about an FoIA request on *who* runs them and *who* sets policy

    I think El Reg might find an interesting story behind the hardware.

    No insider info, just my oversized nose twitching.

  7. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

    So what use are they ?

    It sounds like Devon and Cornwall Police have ANPR feeds, but don't know where the cameras are. How useful is that ?

    "Sarge, we've an ANPR hit for a vehicle wanted in connection with that warehouse blag a couple of weeks ago"

    "Well Constable, where is it ?"

    "You won't like this Sarge, but we only know it's somewhere in Devon and Cornwall - we don't know where the cameras are".

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    "potential offenders"

    "would make it easier for potential offenders to avoid the areas and concentrate on those not covered."

    That's the nub really. In better times, it was assumed that people were inocent until found to be guilty of sometrhing, so they were trusted to go about their own business without snooping by the state.

    Now, everyone is a "potential offender" - guilty but not yet caught, or yet to commit one of the ever expanding list of crimes. So that makes it OK to monitor and track everyone 24/7 and keep records so that you can crack down on the scum if they ever think of stepping out of line.

    It will end in tears, mark my (anonymous) words...

    1. Chris Donald

      Social responsibility..

      Let us take social responsibility a shade further. How about facebooking and otherwise sharing each location in an easy to access manner. I'm sure there are dozens of developers who can knock up an easy to fill in map-or perhaps use a google maps thingy to mark them all down.

      Reckon someone did that already-too obvious. Simply circumvent the authorities "right to silence"-with the public's right to speak.

      However, I do think that genuine, basic law enforcement is helped by these. And I hate them on principle.

      Over the top police state style stuff. Never liked the nanny state, in any form.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    It says the two public interest arguments are "finely balanced"...

    That would be in the same vein as "All are equal, but some are more equal than others" (xref

    Or put it another way, "the State - give up power, in the public interest?"

    Show me that and I'll show you a flying pig doing cartwheels next to a unicorn.

    Who mentioned pig?

  10. max allan

    It'll end up like speed cameras

    Just like speed cameras, there will end up being a database online somewhere linked in to google maps or GPS systems etc....

    Maybe like the #uksnow tag in twitter someone could make something that uses geolocation on photos of ANPRs posted to twitter to build the database. (don't use the geo info from twitter, by the time someone tweets, they'll have left the area of the camera)

  11. david wilson

    Trust to delete, but not trust not to misuse?

    Even for tax/insurance/theft usage, the data has to be collected and stored for *some* amount of time, even if only a matter of days (for example, if a vehicle is reported stolen, it's useful to know where it's been in the recent past, not merely have it flagged up if seen by a camera after the report is made).

    If 'surveillance' worries are about the *present*, if some random citizen really didn't trust the police not to be doing Evil things with data, why would that person trust those same police when they *say* they deleted all copies of it after a couple of weeks - a couple of weeks when it would seem likely that other interested agencies would probably have some form of access to it if they wanted?

    If someone thought they were (legitimately or otherwise) likely to be of particular interest to the authorities, why would those people expect that *their* movements would go unrecorded even if there was a general policy of early deletion of data?

    If worries are about the *future*, if some Great Fascist State suddenly arose that really was going to do Evil things with records of where people (or at least cars) had been, wouldn't we be likely to be equally screwed whether or not they actually had the last couple of years' worth of data?

    Seems to me that a police state could probably find enough on Facebook to keep them busy for a while.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @david wilson

      And your opinion is *what* exactly?

      1. david wilson

        @John Smith 19

        >>"And your opinion is *what* exactly?"

        Personally, when it comes to my public vehicle movements, I'm more concerned with what gets *done* with information about my travels, rather than how long it's stored - who does and who doesn't have access to information and how (or whether) that access is recorded and reviewed.

        Accurate recording of who looked up what is likely to be much more of a protection against misuse than deletion of data after a few days rather than a couple of years.

        In practice, I'd suspect that there are a limited number of people looking at the data, and most of their time is going to be taken up by actual proper cases.

        To the extent there are wrong/dumb things happen (like people being stopped by the police because their car had previously been seen near a demonstration), they can happen irrespective of long general records being kept (likely the car was flagged by someone or some camera there at the time of the demo, rather than by trawling through a database months later) or where cameras are located or how public the locations are (since the people involved had no idea they were flagged as suspicious, and the camera in that case was presumably a portable one anyway).

        People can argue about reasonable data storage times, but anyone who thinks they might, justifiably or not, be of more than passing interest to the police or other authorities would have to assume that even if the general storage period was a matter of days, which is fairly easy to argue is a necessary period for various legitimate uses, that *their* details could easily have been copied elsewhere in that time.

        If someone doesn't trust the authorities with the data, changing the length of the storage time shouldn't really satisfy them unless they're very easily pleased.

    2. SirTainleyBarking
      Black Helicopters

      Whaddya mean

      In the future?

      Signed: Godwin

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Correct me if I am wrong...

    When ANPR was first being introduced, the Dictorship (sorry Labour Government) of the time, along with the ACPO, said that these cameras were going to be used only the capture people driving without Tax, Insurance, MOT's etc. They would not be used to record where people are travelling (and stored for that purpose).

    If you travelling in West London, watch out on the A316 ;)

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: watch out on the A316

      Is that supposed to be a warning? It's just that I'm having difficulty thinking of anyone who might not be aware that the A316 has had more cameras than the bloody BBC for nigh-on a decade now.

    2. david wilson

      @AC 00:12

      >>"When ANPR was first being introduced, the Dictorship (sorry Labour Government) of the time, "

      If you're thinking first-use, that'll be the famous Labour government of the early 1980s, I assume?

      As for the later *expansion* of ANPR, the timing of that seems likely to have been at least partly a case of cost, timing and actual or perceived threats, not merely party politics (or, maybe more accurately, one or other party's fear of being seen to be soft on crime).

      Possibly one of the more memorable/publicised ANPR installations was the City of London, and that was February 1997.

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge


    "When ANPR was first being introduced, the Dictorship (sorry Labour Government) of the time, along with the ACPO, said that these cameras were going to be used only the capture people driving without Tax, Insurance, MOT's etc. They would not be used to record where people are travelling (and stored for that purpose)."

    They also said.

    RIPA powers will only be used to catch serious and organised criminals and terrorists.

    Terrorist asset seizure laws would not be misused for example to freeze the assets of icelandic banks that UK councils had put money into.

    Hear the words. Look at the behavior. Make up your own mind.

  14. Starkadder

    Oh no you don't

    Just tells us how weak and pusillanimous the ICO is.

  15. Old Hand

    What makes them different?

    Speed Cameras round here are painted yellow so people learn to slow down even if the case contains no active camera. Some social benefit occurs.

    What is different about NCPR Cameras? If people knew where they were (and were concerned) they would take care in those neghbourhoods. If people don't know where they are that social benefit is lost.

    Time for one policeman to talkto another policeman?

  16. Wommit

    Colour me cynical but...

    How many people have been prosecuted using evidence from ANPR cameras?

    If you buy a car and don't intent to bother with the irksome details of road tax, MoT or insurance. I bet that you're also not going to give your real name and address to the seller of the vehicle. So the cameras will spot an un taxed / MoT'd / Insured vehicle and have no where to send the £80 fixed penalty notice.

    The ONLY way to be sure of catching these illegal vehicles is to have a set of plods a bit further down the road waiting to be told by the camera that car AB10CDE is four days out of its tax, and then for the plods to pull the car over and take the drivers details there and then.

    Of course there aren't enough road traffic plods left to do that because they weren't needed, speed cameras saw to that. So ANPR cameras are almost useless at their stated primary function, leaving only their secondary, surveillance, function. At that they are very, very good.

    Finally, I do not believe the reported 2 year retention period for the collected data. The live database may be purged of old data occasionally, when time allows or the PiC (Plod in Charge [tm]) remembers about it. But the carefully collected and stored backups (taken by sysadmins, not the PiC) are going to be around for many, many years after that. And how long would it take to restore that data? An hour, two?

    1. Anonymous Coward


      "Of course there aren't enough road traffic plods left to do that..."

      You are joking?!? There have never been so many police as there are today.

  17. Fred 24

    Try living with this...

    Apart from the spiralling cost of motoring, this is the other key factor which has seen me hangup my driving licience.

    We have a decent bus network, so why should I put myself at risk of the idiots that fill the roads during summer.

    There are a few places online where the locals keep tabs on where these things are, so while they may not release the information, those that drive have a counter measure for counter measure - nothing to do with evasion, just the long traffic jams that happen while they pull someone over.

  18. Piers

    I simply don't believe this...

    >Devon and Cornwall Police...

    >...told Kable that it holds no information on the locations of CCTV

    >cameras with ANPR functionality that it uses.

    I simply don't believe this - they don't know where they are? So if there is an incident

    in a given area, how do they know where the recognition comes from?

    Not telling us is one thing, lying like this is another!

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like