Big brother to watch every car journey

It sounds like something out of an Orwellian nightmare, but according to an article in The Independent, from next year, plans will be well underway to record the movement of all vehicles on British roads as part of a new national surveillance system. The information will be stored for up to two years – although this may later be extended to five.

The Independent says:

The network will incorporate thousands of existing CCTV cameras which are being converted to read number plates automatically night and day to provide 24/7 coverage of all motorways and main roads, as well as towns, cities, ports and petrol-station forecourts.

By next March a central database installed alongside the Police National Computer in Hendon, north London, will store the details of 35 million number-plate "reads" per day. These will include time, date and precise location, with camera sites monitored by global positioning satellites.

The Association of Chief Police Officers, which is forcing the scheme through, says it will “revolutionise arrest, intelligence and crime investigation opportunities” and of course, given the current political climate, it is no surprise to see that the good old counter-terrorism excuse is being used to validate a further invasion into the private lives of ordinary people.

Other uses staked out for national surveillance system also include checking whether vehicles are licensed, insured and have a valid MoT test certificate.

Given that this scheme is seemingly going to be introduced without any public consultation or parliamentary scrutiny, where are the checks and balances necessary to ensure that such a system won’t be abused?

Who has decided that two years is an appropriate time period and how can we ensure that we won’t get the kind of function creep that the data commissioner has already warned could happen with the government’s other key surveillance plan, ID cards? First stop crime, next stop speeding offences.

I don’t know about you, but I think it's time to get on your bike….and out of surveillance Britain.