17:09 GMT +316 December 2019
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    A CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) camera is seen against the backdrop of Big Ben in central London

    Under the Radar and On the Roads: UK Snooping Cameras Under Scrutiny

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    Britain is about to enshrine into law a surveillance bill with significant powers allowing the state to snoop on its citizens and bulk collect their data.

    The Investigatory Powers Bill, dubbed the Snoopers' Charter, will allow the British government to intercept and hack into millions of communications channels and force Internet companies to keep records of all their users' data for up to a year — just in case they want to have a look at it.

    That's every phonecall, email and website visited by every citizen, kept on record for 12 months. And now it's after vehicle records too.

    The UK's Home Office is to integrate surveillance cameras with police databases nationwide as well as the Automatic Number Place Recognition system (ANPR), technology that automatically reads car registration plates.

    ​The UK has currently has a network of around 8,000 cameras that capture up to 30 million ANPR read-outs every day. The information about the vehicle, its journey and its destination is then retained on the National ANPR Data Center for two years.

    ANPR is used by the police to help track down criminals, organized crime groups and terrorists across the UK. The ANPR camera can instantly read and check a car registration place against other police databases and records the data, including unsuspected vehicles too and stores it on the National ANPR Data Center (NADC) for up to two years.

    ​It's since emerged that this system of surveillance of vehicles across the UK is to be included under the UK Law Enforcement Data Service, leading to accusations that the Home Office is operating a "burgeoning surveillance capability" as it expands, immune to any parliamentary oversight.

    ANPR, "is not subject to any parliamentary oversight, yet it is one of the largest intelligence gathering tools in the world," Tony Porter, the UK's surveillance camera commissioner said in his recent annual report.

    "Its use as an intelligence tool is self-evident in that there are now approximately 8,500 cameras in use, capable of 35 million and 40 million 'reads' a day and storing upwards of 30 billion 'reads' a year."

    Mr. Porter also pointed out that ANPR has progressed and expanded from just being used to track suspect vehicles involved in terrorism or extremist activity in the 1980's, 90's and early 2000's to now tracing insurance claims, vehicle theft and car tax.

    The UK's surveillance camera commissioner remains concerned that the system, believed to be integrated with the Law Enforcement Data Service (LEDS), will not function on behalf of citizens in the UK and progess unchecked and without any scrutiny from parliament.

    ​Meanwhile the Snoopers' Charter awaits Royal Assent after passing through the House of Lords, before it becomes law, possibly by the end of 2016.


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    Snoopers' Charter, Big Brother, roads, cameras, snooping, traffic, police, car, surveillance, privacy, Investigatory Powers Bill, Home Office, Amber Rudd, Westminster, Britain, United Kingdom, London
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