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Police Given Access to Congestion-Charge Cameras 293

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the creep-hard-to-stop dept.
The BBC is reporting that anti-terror Police officers in London have been given live access to the "congestion charge cameras", allowing them to view and track vehicles in real time. This is a change from the original procedure that required them to apply for access on a case-by-case basis. "Under the new rules, anti-terror officers will be able to view pictures in "real time" from Transport for London's (Tfl) 1,500 cameras, which use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology to link cars with owners' details. But they will only be able to use the data for national security purposes and not to fight ordinary crime, the Home Office stressed."
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Police Given Access to Congestion-Charge Cameras

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @02:18PM (#19905295)
    Mmm, frog stew.
  • Form Letter (Score:5, Funny)

    by UncleWilly (1128141) * <UncleWilly07@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @02:19PM (#19905299)
    Dear Sir/Madam: Laden, Osama, bin

    Your flagrant disregard for paying of the £8-a-day toll has been noted. Your days are numbered, Sir.

  • The best part. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Radon360 (951529) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @02:19PM (#19905309)

    only be able to use the data for national security purposes and not to fight ordinary crime, the Home Office stressed

    Yeah, for now.

    • Re:The best part. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nightwraith (180411) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @02:22PM (#19905353)
      Yep. And they weren't to be used for National Security purposes when installed.

      This is why you don't give a mouse a cookie...
      • Re:The best part. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Blue Stone (582566) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:44PM (#19906545) Homepage Journal
        Bruce Schneier has a nice piece on this sort of thing - the risks of data re-use [schneier.com] - in his latest newsletter.

        We learned the news in March: Contrary to decades of denials, the U.S. Census Bureau used individual records to round up Japanese-Americans during World War II. The Census Bureau normally is prohibited by law from revealing data that could be linked to specific individuals; the law exists to encourage people to answer census questions accurately and without fear. And while the Second War Powers Act of 1942 temporarily suspended that protection in order to locate Japanese-Americans, the Census Bureau had maintained that it only provided general information about neighborhoods. New research proves they were lying.
        It's worth bearing in mind these sort of things, especially when the British government is still pressing, full-steam ahead with the invasive and unwarranted National Identity Register [no2id.net] (and ID Card).
      • by Ellis D. Tripp (755736) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @04:56PM (#19907363) Homepage
        >This is why you don't give a mouse a cookie...

        Or in this case, why you don't give a pig a camera...
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rifter (147452)

        Yep. And they weren't to be used for National Security purposes when installed.

        This is why you don't give a mouse a cookie...

        The same exact thing happened here in the US. We were told the cameras would not be used by law enforcement at all. Not that anyone really believed it.

        Likewise the anti-terrorism laws (including the infamous PATRIOT act) were supposed to be "only for terrorists" but the reality is that they are much more often applied to ordinary crimes.

        Bottom line, if there is data available peopl

    • by rah1420 (234198)
      Cue the old saw about the best way to cook a frog.
      • Did someone call for the website in my sig [governmentwedeserve.org]?

        Hilarious (intentionally?) take on the tale to which you are referring.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by HTH NE1 (675604)
        Cue the old saw about the best way to cook a frog.

        "Give a man an inch and he thinks he's a ruler. Give him 12 inches and he is a ruler."
        -- Marx, Groucho

        Inch by inch....
    • Re:The best part. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cuantar (897695) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @02:29PM (#19905493) Homepage
      Yeah, just like the American government only uses the Patriot Act for national security purposes and not to fight ordinary crime, like drug dealers and street gangs... *cough*
      • Yeah, just like the American government only uses the Patriot Act for national security purposes and not to fight ordinary crime, like drug dealers and street gangs... *cough*
        References?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by phil reed (626)
      It's called "mission creep [wikipedia.org]".
    • Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the change was needed to deal with the "enduring vehicle-borne terrorist threat to London".

      That "enduring threat" seems to consist of two recent attempts, both bungled by incompetent notscaryists, to let off car bombs in central London using previously unknown vehicles. Remind me how tracking everyone everywhere is going to do anything whatsoever to prevent that happening again?

      • The next time... ...the car bombs which don't blow up will be in larger SUVs, and will have scary faces painted on the front of them.

        -- Terry
      • by Qzukk (229616)
        Remind me how tracking everyone everywhere is going to do anything whatsoever to prevent that happening again?

        If they try again, at least the cops will be able to say that the cars were not previously unknown?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by drspliff (652992)
          Well, those cars must have previously been known by the congestion charging system unless they were driven in at night from outside of London and have never previously been in London.

          Even then, speeding tickets? Parking tickets? license registration? MOT?

          It's almost impossible for a car to stay anonymous when in the UK and especially in London, but attaching this car to a terrorist or terrorist suspect is something which needs active human integration, which is why the police are being given access to the n
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Knave75 (894961)
        [Deep in the top secret control room]

        Officer #1: Sir! Murder in progress!
        Supervisor: Ignore that, we are not allowed to act on that information.
        Officer #1: But sir! The victim is alive and crawling away... slowly... unseen for now...
        Supervisor: Nope, terror only boy, terror only.

        Meanwhile...

        Officer #2: Sir! A turban-wearing terrorist is driving a car within 20km of the airport!
        Supervisor: How do you know it is a terrorist?
        Officer #2: Why else would a single man drive a car to the airport?
        Superviso
      • by Tom (822) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @05:08PM (#19907499) Homepage Journal

        Remind me how tracking everyone everywhere is going to do anything whatsoever to prevent that happening again?
        Just think of the chiiiildren. I mean, really hard. You're not trying! Think hard. Think children... don't think that, you pervert!
      • by jafac (1449)
        Obviously, the solution to that little problem is to immediately ban the sale of all explosives materials such as propane, and gasoline.
    • by meringuoid (568297) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:18PM (#19906183)
      This was always coming [slashdot.org].

      Whatever it is they're doing, whatever reason it is they give for it, if there's anything about it such that they say 'no, no, we'd never use it that way' - they're planning to do just that, just as soon as they can get away with it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by stewwy (687854)
      According to BBC radio4 this evening, it will be used to fight terrorism and any other crime . I tend to think R4 is more accurate than the BBC generally. Its listenership makes the grammar NAZI's on here look tame and the slightest inaccuracy is generally picked up and commented on
      • It was Radio 4 who aired the infamous "sexed-up Iraq dossier" claim which led to all that silly bother.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Agripa (139780)
      I am altering the deal. Play I do not alter it any further.

  • Slope: Slippery (Score:2, Insightful)

    by popejeremy (878903)
    You mean that when people give power to other people that the powerful might use their power to get more power even if they promised not to?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by xENoLocO (773565) *
      Yeah, but they promised. It's cool man, relax.
      • by Pojut (1027544)
        I would mod you +1 funny,m except your post is what they actually do want us to believe. It is therefore I must mod you +1 scarycauseitstrue.
  • yeah but... (Score:2, Insightful)

    isn't this just enabling police to watch things happen instead of doing things about it?
    • by Radon360 (951529)

      Observation is a form of evidence collection.

      Police usually only act when they have a reasonable amount of proof that some illegal act is/has been committed. It's a precursor to "doing things about it."

      • by xENoLocO (773565) *
        I read your comment out of context, and it scared the shit out of me. :)

        If observation is a form of evidence collection, and they only act when they have evidence of a crime, then by now seeing a lot more "evidence", there will be a lot more to act on. Turning otherwise normal people into criminals.
        • by Radon360 (951529)

          Sort of goes hand in hand with that saying, "it's only illegal if you get caught." 8-)

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      It'll help the police catch those serial-suicide-bombers that keep getting away...
  • by tiedyejeremy (559815) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @02:23PM (#19905371) Homepage Journal
    "The BBC is reporting that anti-terror Police officers in London have been given live access to the "congestion charge cameras", allowing them to view and track vehicles in real time. "

    If the anti-terror Police officers in London are anything like the anti-terror officers in the States, I would suspect that public acknowledgment means it's been going on for a decade, minimum.
    • If the anti-terror Police officers in London are anything like the anti-terror officers in the States, I would suspect that public acknowledgment means it's been going on for a decade, minimum.

      Considering that the London congestion charge has only been in operation itself for a little over four years, that is unlikely.

      Perhaps instead of inventing scare stories during these discussions, it would be best to focus on the real dangers posed by the real actions of real people?

      • Considering that the London congestion charge has only been in operation itself for a little over four years, that is unlikely.

        Perhaps instead of inventing scare stories during these discussions, it would be best to focus on the real dangers posed by the real actions of real people?

        I read the GP's post as snark not to be taken (completely) seriously.

        His post was like taking a pie to a knife fight.
        Your post was like taking a gun to a pie fight.

        • His post was like taking a pie to a knife fight. Your post was like taking a gun to a pie fight.
          Yeah I don't know what I meant here either.
    • by leenks (906881)
      This would be impressive, given that the congestion charge cameras were only installed in 2003.
    • ::laughs at the people missing the forest because they're busy arguing about the trees::
    • Real criminals do their deals inside nightclubs and ride in a 'friends' car or use a taxi, or if its nice - they use a couriers bike, no plates on a cycle.

      You can always use bright IR-light to flood your plates so the camera which is more sensitive to IR would see a blank. Or get those JAMES BOND plates that cycle between 3 numbers.
  • New Rules? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by keithmo (453716) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @02:23PM (#19905373) Homepage

    "Under the new rules... will only be able to use the data for national security purposes and not to fight ordinary crime..."

    Until, of course, they change the rules again.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by obergfellja (947995)
      unless it is written in an important document (like a constitution)... oh wait, it can always be changed. Look at what Bush has done with the patriot act. If someone speaks out against him in public, it is now a crime, yet we HAD freedom of speech (to speak out against the leader if we chose to do so).
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      Until, of course, they change the rules again.
      Which is why they shouldn't be allowed to administratively change the rules.

      Mr McNulty said the home secretary had signed a certificate exempting the two organisations from some provisions of the 1998 Data Protection Act.
      How much do you want to bet that there isn't much oversight provided by the law.
      After all, how could they anticipate future exemptions?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by veranikon (202025)

      "Under the new rules... will only be able to use the data for national security purposes and not to fight ordinary crime..."
      Until, of course, they change the rules again.
      Once the nascent terrorist menace of jaywalking, running stoplights, public urination, and petty drug deals is fully acknowledged by your gov't, then yes, those cameras will indeed be used exclusively for national security purposes.
  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @02:26PM (#19905455) Homepage
    This is a perfect example of how the government creates a system that COULD be abused but has a legitimate purpose initially. The people allow it, so long as it is not used for evil. Then, once the government has it in place, the rules are changed. I'll have to remember this one next time somebody gives the argument that we don't have to worry about the some new PATRIOT-style act.
    • by RiffRafff (234408)
      But the innocent have nothing to hide/fear, doncha know.
    • Yep. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by iknownuttin (1099999)
      It's interesting that folks who are so worried about getting killed by a terrorist, they allow things like this to happen - thinking that the terrorist's goal is to kill people.

      Then, our Government(s) do things like the article with the blessing of the majority of folks thinking that they're "fighting" terrorism, when in fact, by reacting they way they are, they are playing right into the hands of the terrorists.

      The terrorists want to cause terror and make us react in exactly the way we (the majority) have

      • by jez9999 (618189)
        I really can't blame the Governments too much because if they just say, "Shit happens and we can't panic. We'll work on this and bring these guys to justice. And in the meantime, let's see what we can do to stop this kind of activity in the World." It'll never happen because the general public wouldn't accept it.

        Perhaps it could be said, then, that owing to human nature, terrorism is guaranteed to work?
      • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
        ``Then, our Government(s) do things like the article with the blessing of the majority of folks...''

        I wouldn't be so sure that the majority of folks in the UK approve of this measure.

        ``The terrorists want to cause terror and make us react in exactly the way we (the majority) have been - giving up our civil rights, running around panicking, and anytime there's even a threat of an attack, our level goes up to "Orange" or some such nonsense.''

        Maybe, but I don't think so. I think causing terror is just the mean
  • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @02:31PM (#19905525) Journal
    >But they will only be able to use the data for national security purposes and not to fight ordinary crime, the Home Office stressed.

    I wonder how long that'll last... which is to say, I wonder for how long they've already been using the data to at least track ordinary crime, just waiting for the general public to give up caring enough that they can use the reams of data they've collected with impunity. Or whether we, over here in the USA, will even find out that this kind of technology exists and is being used.

    Anything the government can use against its citizens, it probably already is, and if not, it's only because of technical limitations they're busily trying to fix.
  • by tsbiscaro (888711) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @02:34PM (#19905583)
    The offices can't even tell the difference between 2 photos. Jean was murdered by London officers after they mislead him with a Muslim terrorist that lived at the same building. An officer took a picture of Jean, sent to the police headquarters, and they said: "that's it, he's our man". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Charles_de_Menez es [wikipedia.org]
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @02:39PM (#19905641) Homepage Journal
    The London system is the direct source of the system that NYC mayor Bloomberg is trying to install in Manhattan. He says it's for "counter terrorism", though he'll probably morph that excuse into "traffic congestion". And then he'll use the (public spying) info for whatever he wants. Like helping his run for president, by watching which "known whorehouses" his political and economic opponents frequent when they're telling their wives they're "working late again".

    These cameras point at public places. Their data is public info. Their use, and abuse, needs to be overseen by representatives of the public. Probably on a time delay to give real police business the advantage for which they're installed. Probably with a process to allow total redaction to protect legitimately sensitive info, even though it was recorded in public, like for example which places are covered (and therefore which places have a blind eye). But without public oversight, they're just Big Brother's public eyeball.
    • by Qzukk (229616)
      like for example which places are covered (and therefore which places have a blind eye)

      If your aim is a completely open society, then even that should be released so that the blind spots get fixed.
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        My aim is not a "completely open society". My aim is a very clear, even obvious and perfectly well established, distinction between public and private, between publicity and privacy. And I am for the maximum individual privacy, with the maximum protection from invasion. By private people, by corporations, by governments, by nature, by anyone.

        But I am for a the maximum openness in the public sector. Which also accommodates some rare, yet real, needs for immediate secrecy. But any secrecy, however fleeting, m
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @02:46PM (#19905729) Journal
    You think the "if it saves one child" crowd really makes a distinction between national security and "ordinary" crime? Pretty soon the Bobbies are looking at all vehicles. They are under pressure to "solve" crimes. Their definition of "solve" is to get someone convicted. Sure this provision will increase conviction rates. But dont be so sure all convicts would be the real perpetrators.
    • by rossz (67331)
      No, they are under pressure to close cases. There is no pressure to solve crimes.
  • by non (130182) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @02:51PM (#19905787) Homepage Journal
    firstly, this will be used to enforce the 'No Repetitive Beats' law.

    and no, i'm not taking the piss.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @02:52PM (#19905807)
    Why can't they use these traffic cameras to fight crime when they can use standard town center CCTV?

    How about they also stop pretending that London webcams malfunction whenever there's a large protest, so that we can keep an eye out for criminal acts committed by the police. After all, if they have nothing to hide then they have nothing to worry about.</sarcasm>
  • Wrong way 'round... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @02:53PM (#19905823) Homepage Journal

    But they will only be able to use the data for national security purposes and not to fight ordinary crime, the Home Office stressed.

    ...actually, something vague and expansive like "national security purposes" is probably the *worst* thing to grant extra enforcement powers for.

  • nipping off to the pub for a quick one of the missus works for the police ... she will know exactly where you have been :-(
  • Oh no! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by helpfulcorn (668048) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:07PM (#19906003) Homepage Journal
    Big Brother is watching you, in public! Surely, being in public violates your privacy!

    I think it's a bit alarmist to go on about Big Brother, privacy, etc when we're talking about cameras that are in the street, as if you'll be showering there or rubbing butter on your lover.

    Of course, a system like this could be abused if you started watching people jay-walk, but then again jay-walking is a crime and if a cop was standing there watching you, you'd also probably get in trouble (actually, probably not, I've never met a cop (personally) who cared about jay-walking in most cases).

    To assume that any kind of authority watching you in the street is automatically big brother reminds me of people who live in the woods, want to separate from the US, and act like a bunch of crazies.

    Anyone can see you in the street, log you for any purpose, and any cop can stop you and fuck with you. How is this any different than what's been happening for years? Other than it's over a camera now. You can't automatically jump behind "omfg privacy!" when it's in public. There are millions of people to watch, so it's a little naive and alarmist to assume it'll all be used to control your everyday life.

    P.S. Sorry if this is hard to read, I keep having to hide the window from nosy co-workers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anon-Admin (443764)
      Anyone can see you in the street, log you for any purpose, and any cop can stop you and fuck with you. How is this any different than what's been happening for years? Other than it's over a camera now. You can't automatically jump behind "omfg privacy!" when it's in public

      You are right, anyone can see you on the street. Where you are wrong is that unlike the general passer by who sees you for a sec and then moves on, the police with cameras can ID you on the street. You have privacy through anonymity. With
    • and you certianly have no clue what the harm could be in monitoring for patterns.

      I huighly recommend this paper:
      http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id =998565 [ssrn.com]

      to clue you in on the various aspects of privacy.

      While most people in law enforcement are honest hard working people, some aren't.
      Some will look for any reason to bust someone of a different race, some people will use information to try and peg a crime on someone, anyone not just the perpetrator.

      There is plenty of abuses you can read about
  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:26PM (#19906293)
    But they will only be able to use the data for national security purposes and not to fight ordinary crime, the Home Office stressed.

    Oh, we don't care about regular crime. Let it happen as much as you want. Heaven forbid that we might use possibly effective tools already in place to actually protect you and your property. Only terrorists are worth actually trying to give our best efforts towards.

    You know, all things considered, I suspect the average Britain is in far more danger from ordinary crime, than from terrorism at this moment. And if a Terrorist isn't actually a Terrorist until he commits an act of Terrorism, then he's just an ordinary criminal up to that point, and will be left to purse his merry pursuits. What a crock!

    I like the David Brin solution. Have cameras everywhere public, and allow everyone to access them at any time. No more secrets this way, and a lot less suspicion.

  • by speedlaw (878924) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @04:06PM (#19906797) Homepage
    Luckily, here in NYC, we just tossed out congestion pricing, which was the distractor for a full surveillance system, paid for by the congestion charge. Luckily, the legislators outside the golden ring of New York City saw this for what it is, a huge commuter tax. I want the Germans to run my traffic systems, not the British. WTF is up with this idea of total surveillance, and why would any allegedy free country put this crap up ? Allegedly....
  • the...well, it's exactly the same, never mind.
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @04:19PM (#19906957) Homepage Journal
    And to think peopel fall for this nonsence every time.

    Like the old seatbelt law 'we cant use this to stop you even if we see you with out a belt on the road' but it 10 years they had seatbelt enforcement roadblocks, 'for our protection'.

    Wake the hell up people and put your foot down.
  • Wherever a police officer could be standing, there could — legally, morally — be a surveillance camera. We just can't afford this many policemen, and the cameras simply allow fewer of them to be (much) more productive.

    There will be more of them, and there is nothing wrong with it, unless they peek into what's justifiably considered private — which they could do, but a live policeman is much more likely to.

    The problem with Big Brother was not that it was "always watching", but that it w

  • Personally I would be LESS worried about these cameras being used to prevent ordinary crimes. They can't hold you idenfinately for speeding, and they can't apply any of the other "terrorist" laws if a camera footage could possibly offer circumstantial evidence that you were shoplifting. With the "national security" stuff it is different. They can hold you for a significant amount of time without a conviction, you have few means to appeal your case or have it properly reviewed, and of course, they can keep t
  • by TheDarkener (198348) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @04:50PM (#19907283)
    It only takes so much depriving human beings of their

    Sense of privacy and individuality,

    And increasing a government's

    National opression and monitoring of its' citizens in every sense,

    When citizens will become so depressed and feel so

    deflated of their individuality,

    And

    Sense of personal freedom

    That they will revolt.

    Read your history books.

It's not so hard to lift yourself by your bootstraps once you're off the ground. -- Daniel B. Luten

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