Cameras to snoop on UK motorists

Published: 18 July 2007

The British are already the most watched nation on Earth, with some 4.2 million CCTV cameras monitoring our every move. Now it looks as though the same cameras could be used to log journey details.

Leaked Downing Street papers have revealed Metropolitan Police plans to use real-time access to London’s Congestion Charge automatic number plate recognition data. The civil liberty bandwagon has immediately claimed it's the first step in a Government plan for journey tracking.

If approved, the Met Police will have data from 1500 Congestion Charge cameras to help combat terrorism and threats to national secruity. The leaked documents suggest that their powers could be extended to include data collected by the Highways Agency’s 1140 cameras elsewhere, as well as other local authority cameras. Currently, police can only request London Congestion Charge records on a case-by-case basis.

Police access to this national network of cameras is likely to meet strong criticism; earlier in 2007, 1.8 million people signed a Downing Street petition calling for road charging plans to be scrapped. Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said: 'It is one thing to ask the public for special measures to fight the grave threat of terrorism, but when that becomes a Trojan horse for mass snooping for more petty matters it only leads to a loss of trust in government.'

A threat to motorists' freedom? Or fair enough in a security-aware age? Let us know your reaction to being tracked and watched by clicking 'Add comment' below