There are 4,000 automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras in the United Kingdom, logging more than 10 million vehicles every day; since the launch of the ANPR network in 2006, the government has accumulated 7.6 billion images; these images include details of number plates and the date, time, and place of capture — and, often, the picture of the driver and passengers; the Home Secretary has called for tighter regulation of the ANPRs, and also for limiting access to the image database; ministers will consider how long these records can be held (the current limit is two years); seventy-two ANPR cameras in Birmingham will soon be removed after it emerged that their installation, in areas with large Muslim populations, had been funded through a Home Office counter-terrorism fund.
Three weeks ago we wrote that license-plate readers are becoming popular with police departments. Automatic license-plate readers enable police rapidly to verify that passing motorists are not behind the wheel of a stolen vehicle or do not have outstanding warrants. We noted that opponents of excessive government intrusion warn the readers will allow law enforcement to spy on innocent people by tracking their whereabouts for no reason (“License-plate readers help police, alarm privacy advocates,” 15 June 2010 HSNW). The new U.K. government decided to do something about it: Police cameras that record motorists’ movements must be more tightly regulated, Home Secretary Theresa May has ordered.
The 4,000-strong automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) network logs more than 10 million vehicles every day. The BBC reports that the government is to look at limiting access to the database of 7.6 billion images, details of number plates and the date, time, and place of capture.
The cameras capture the front of cars and photographs can include images of the driver and any passengers. Ministers will consider how long these records can be held. The current limit is two years.
May says she wants proper accountability and safeguards in the use of this database.