U.K. in ambitious road surveillance scheme

Published 14 January 2006

All roads may lead to Rome, but all surveillance roads surely lead to England, as government launches nationwide road surveillance program

Catholics have the Vatican, Jews have Jerusalem, Muslims have Mecca, and surveillance buffs have the United Kingdom. The U.K. standing as the No. 1 surveillance nation in the world will be cemented in March, when the government will begin recording movements of vehicles on the nation’s roads. New and more sophisticated cameras will be added to Britain’s already-extensive roadside system to create the automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) system to capture images of fifty million license plates a day. The data will be stored for two years.

The police says the system is essential for fighting terror and crime, while civil libertarians worry about potential abuses.

Criminals use cars, it’s as simple as that,” said John Dean, who is coordinating rollout of ANPR. “Real criminals have cars that can’t be traced anyway,” responds Nigel Humphries of the Association of British Drivers. Privacy International Director Simon Davies likened the ANPR approach to “weeding with a bulldozer.”

-read more in this report; read more about ANPR at the Police Information Technology Organization (PITO) Web site