The police are to expand a car surveillance operation that will allow them to record and store details of millions of daily journeys for up to five years. A national network of roadside cameras will be able to “read” 50 million license plates a day, enabling officers to reconstruct the journeys of motorists.
Police have been encouraged to “fully and strategically exploit” the database, which is already recording the whereabouts of 10 million drivers a day, during investigations ranging from counter-terrorism to low-level crime.
But it has raised concerns from civil rights campaigners, who question whether the details should be kept for so long, and want clearer guidance on who might have access to the material.
The project relies on automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras to pinpoint the precise time and location of all vehicles on the road. Senior officers had promised the data would be stored for two years. But responding to inquiries under the Freedom of Information Act, the Home Office has admitted the data is now being kept for five years.
Police helicopters have been equipped with infrared cameras that can read licence plates from 610 metres (2,000ft).
It’s difficult not to make a snap comparison with Herr Himmler – the joy he would have had with such a thorough system of spying on the citizens of a nation. As much as Americans have fought tooth and nail to keep what civil liberties we have remaining – from the onslaught of so-called patriots and other cowards – the Brits apparently have fewer defenders and less courage.
Certainly, they’re on their way to less freedom.