34 million number plate images now captured daily by surveillance cameras in the UK

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ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras along with road surveillance cameras now capture up to a whopping 34 million images every day, it has been revealed. Number plate photos are stored in a central police database that can be accessed without a warrant – and there’s currently more than 22 billion photos stored in it!

There are c9,000 surveillance cameras along roads and motorways throughout the UK, and these are used by police to help prevent and solve crime on a daily basis. There are also ANPR cameras fitted to police vehicles, which help to find stolen cars and track uninsured drivers.

So is this Big Brother, or necessary for safety? In 2015, evidence from ANPR cameras was used in over 200 court cases relating to robbery, murder, kidnapping and drugs offences.

Martin Lyddon, ANPR manager at Essex Police, who are buying 31 new cameras, said: “ANPR makes a positive contribution to policing objectives every day, supporting a range of activities from volume crime enquiries to major incidents. The blend of traditional policing methods combined with ANPR technology has brought these offenders to justice. We have extremely stringent processes in place to manage the data that these cameras collect and innocent members of the public have nothing to be concerned about.”

However, Renate Samson, director of the privacy campaigning organisation Big Brother Watch, said “A proper debate about how this technology is used and to what extent it invades the privacy of ordinary motorists is long overdue. There needs to be a massive education programme about ANPR: what they are, what do they do, how long is our data kept, and what is the data used for? If not, it will fuel concerns about a surveillance state”

Images are processed in line with the Data Protection Act and the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice. All records are kept for two years, and in 2015, the database was searched 300,758 times by police. The stats quoted above were obtained by Sky News.

Let us know at @Liftshare how you feel about the increasing presence of ANPR cameras. Do you think they’re excessive, or do you have ‘nothing to hide’?

Author Lex Barber

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