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City Council Ordered To Stop CCTV In Taxi Cabs

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I know authorities listen in to your cell phone conversations for keywords to start listening in. Do you think they do this for idle conversation you have in your car that has OnStar installed? In today's authority trumps privacy world, I'd just assume so.
  • And yet in Australia (Score:4, Informative)

    by DavidRawling (864446) <hulk_.yahoo@com> on Thursday July 26, 2012 @03:10AM (#40774045)
    Or at least in Sydney, pretty much every cab has recording devices "for the safety of driver and passenger". Most appeared after the well publicised bashing of taxi drivers. Thanks numpties for ruining privacy for the rest of us.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 26, 2012 @03:51AM (#40774191)

      I've helped installed a few of the "Captured by Askari Taxi Security Camera Systems" (used by cabcharge in Queensland in response to the given bashing) a few years ago and the data recorded is nowhere near as bad as the OP suggests.

      The system only records infra-red JPEG images (with GPS and timestamp) of the inside and outside doors upon the following conditions:
        - The brakes are applied hard
        - The door opens
        - The meter is payed
        - 5 minutes before and 5 minutes after the panic button is pressed (in 5 second intervals)

      These might have changed in the last few years but I doubt it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I've helped installed a few of the "Captured by Askari Taxi Security Camera Systems" (used by cabcharge in Queensland in response to the given bashing) a few years ago and the data recorded is nowhere near as bad as the OP suggests.

        The system only records infra-red JPEG images (with GPS and timestamp) of the inside and outside doors upon the following conditions:

        - The brakes are applied hard

        - The door opens

        - The meter is payed

        - 5 minutes before and 5 minutes after the panic button is pressed (in 5 second intervals)

        These might have changed in the last few years but I doubt it.

        I don't think that matters. People object to the very presence of these cameras to begin with. The irony in all of this is that the people responsible for the explosion of CCTV cameras in quantities that repressive communist security services could only dream of back in the day are the same ones who agitated against communism based on the fact that it was a police state that restricted your freedom and invaded your privacy. The reality is that when I am in the UK for example I feel just as spied upon as ba

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        - 5 minutes before ... the panic button is pressed (in 5 second intervals)

        I'm more impressed that Australia has time travel devices.

      • by mjr167 (2477430)
        How do you trigger a recording before the panic button is pressed?
        • How do you trigger a recording before the panic button is pressed?

          It'd be like a black box they put in newer cars. It's always recording, but "discards" all but the 5 minutes before and the 5 minutes after an event.
          Probably has a scratch area in memory and moves designated content to a retention area for later review when an event happens.

          The thing is, it is ALWAYS recording, obviously, because the device doesn't know WHEN an event will happen.

          Sorta like the naked body scanners at TSA checkpoints. Always recording, but "discards" the images after the operator checks you f

        • by gman003 (1693318)

          Constantly record to a certain section of memory, overwriting results from five minutes ago if needed (and it will be needed - the buffer will be sized to only have enough storage for five minute's recording). That memory doesn't even need to be persistent - RAM works fine.

          If the panic button is pressed, copy that buffer into "recorded" memory (ie. disk or flash), and begin writing new frames to there as well for the next five minutes.

          Think of it as a database write-ahead log, almost, except here the purpos

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        What about access control? People get off on the ghost porn produced by airport nude scanners so IR images are definitely of interest. I bet many newspapers would love to have images of celebs in short skirts getting in and out of taxis.

    • by Tsingi (870990)
      I've been to Sydney a couple times and I find the cab drivers there to be top notch!
      Having a camera in the car will certainly cramp their style.
  • Believe it or not... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Landak (798221) <Landak@gmail.com> on Thursday July 26, 2012 @03:16AM (#40774065) Homepage
    The organisation doing the "telling off" here, the Information Commissioner's Office, is actually surprisingly good at these sorts of cases, on these sorts of scales. I know someone who was being followed by his landlord (by PIs -- looking for any breach of his tenancy agreement), and the ICO prosecuted all involved; a solicitor was disbarred and the landlord might face criminal prosecutions. In this case, the relatively small bit of government -- a city council, the smallest 'unit of democracy' in the UK -- being told off here has no choice but to take the ruling and stop taping everyone's conversation (and/or sexy fun time) in the back of a cab.

    Quite why it is that the ICO can tell off Southampton Council for recording people routinely, and yet can do nothing about the fact that everyone's movements across and through London are routinely tracked, however, escapes me. There are more CCTV cameras in london per capita than anywhere else in the world; one need only walk around outside and be followed, tracked and dated whenever you're going anywhere. Automatic CCTV numberplate recognition algorithm will automatically fine you for stopping on a (double) yellow line for more than a minute, or for straying into a bus (or, now, unfortunately, "Games") lane, irrespective of whether or not you had any choice in the matter. I find it depressing that the specific extra-governmental regulatory body designed to stop these sorts of things is so powerless when it comes down to telling off people who actually are important.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's probably to do with an expectation of privacy.

      Outside you expect that you may be on camera. You probably still don't expect your conversations to be recorded.

      In an enclosed space (taxi) you expect a much greater degree of privacy. The cabbie might overhear a few things, but I'd be shocked to find out my conversations were being routinely recorded and stored.

      • The cabbie might overhear a few things, but I'd be shocked to find out my conversations were being routinely recorded and stored.

        The notices on every side of the taxi stating such didn't tip you off?

    • by _Shad0w_ (127912) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @03:40AM (#40774149)

      Southampton Council is a Unitary Authority; they sit at district level, which is one up from the lowest level, which is Parish Councils.

      Parish Councils generally end up being responsible for things that no-one else higher up wants to run, like allotments and public lavatories. They're frequently appointed by unopposed elections too, because very few people want to be on them - they end co-opt people to them to fill in the gaps.

      • by Landak (798221)
        Ahh, my apologies -- I'd assumed that Southampton was small enough that they were a town council (which is analogous to a parish one, but with a harder job of cleaning the toilets!). Do'h!
      • Southampton Council is a Unitary Authority; they sit at district level, which is one up from the lowest level, which is Parish Councils.

        Ah, but you've neglected to include what's most pertinent. District level councils report directly to the Ministry of Information, yes? That means if you're a cabbie, or a passenger, you'll end up dealing with the folks at Information Retrieval.

        • by Bazman (4849)

          Central Services are looking for you, Mr Tuttle. I mean Buttle. Tuttle.

      • by JasterBobaMereel (1102861) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @04:37AM (#40774439)

        Unitary Authorities members are generally elected largely unopposed as well, since in most cases no one is interested, or they vote on party lines to "send a message" to central government ....

        The general public largely don't vote in these elections, either due to lack of interest, because they don't know what they do, or they vote on things the body has no responsibility for ...

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @04:26AM (#40774357) Journal

      and yet can do nothing about the fact that everyone's movements across and through London are routinely tracked

      It is generally accepted even my the most liberal democracies that people - even visitors - lose some freedoms when in prison.

    • by BenJury (977929) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @06:18AM (#40774847)

      Automatic CCTV numberplate recognition algorithm will automatically fine you for stopping on a (double) yellow line for more than a minute...

      As a Londoner who has to use those roads, good. People selfishly stopping on main roads to pop in and buy some fags and a paper continually snarls up the traffic in this city. I can't tell you the number of times I've seen roads backed up because one asshat has parked up forcing the traffic from 2 lanes to one, causing huge congestion and waisted time for everyone. All because they cant be arsed to drive an extra 10meters and pull into one of the side roads to park. Gah.

      When I'm mayor (you never know! I mean who'd have though Boris would have got in!) all main roads will be red routes and at least the first few spaces in all side roads will be limited time free parking to accommodate the local businesses. /rant

      • All because they cant be arsed to drive an extra 10meters and pull into one of the side roads to park

        I was going to say that those side roads probably can't be parked in either but then

        and at least the first few spaces in all side roads will be limited time free parking

        You've got my vote

    • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Thursday July 26, 2012 @07:57AM (#40775327) Homepage
      Perhaps because people are not "routinely tracked" across London. Most of those CCTV cameras are private, and as was demonstrated by the riots, often capture footage far too low quality to be used for tracking even if they were somehow linked into a kind of super-skynet.
  • by Ckwop (707653) <Simon.Johnson@gmail.com> on Thursday July 26, 2012 @03:19AM (#40774081) Homepage

    I live and work in the UK and I cycle everywhere. Part of the reason is precisely because it's difficult for the government to interfere with your business. The way I see it, the fewer interactions I have with the government the better.

    If you take public transport, you're on CCTV everywhere. Naturally, you can be subject to searches when leaving train stations or even in bus stations.

    If you drive a car, at some point you're going to get pulled over. You're going to get a ticket of some sort with high probability.

    With cycling, there's no tax to pay. No fuel to pay for. There's no real way to be stopped and searched on a bicycle.

    Often, it is faster than a car journey anyway.

    Cycling is probably one of the only remaining modes of transport that is truly free in both senses of the word.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 26, 2012 @03:25AM (#40774099)
      Driving for 15 years in the uk and never pulled over, stopped or searched. As for no way to be stopped and searched ona bike, id imagine its exactly the same as in a car...do something wrong and you can be stopped...give them suspicions and they can search you.....being ona bike has nothing to do with it.
      • If you want to be pulled over cycling in Cambridge, go through a red light by Parker's Piece. There's a police station right next to it and there's often someone just leaving or arriving who is very happy to have a little chat with dangerous cyclists.
        • by oPless (63249)

          Though they don't appear to be too bothered further down on Mill Road, where cyclists ride at night without lights with impunity, run red lights, and travel at high speed along the inside of cars ready to smack into the side of cars turning out of junctions and turning left. Jumping off pavements without looking etc...

          Recently I've noticed a increase of high speed cyclists coming out of junction joining Mill road WITHOUT LOOKING. Luckily I am a seasoned driver and well aware of the less competent Cambridge

          • Though they don't appear to be too bothered further down on Mill Road, where cyclists ride at night without lights with impunity, run red lights, and travel at high speed along the inside of cars ready to smack into the side of cars turning out of junctions and turning left. Jumping off pavements without looking etc...

            For what little it's worth, it's not with impunity. Mill Road has one of the worst accident records of any road in Cambridge, and many of the people who get hurt or worse were on bikes.

            The idiots who overtake cyclists over the blind summit on the bridge do occasionally run into (very literally) someone similarly idiotic coming the other way, too.

        • If you want to be pulled over cycling in Cambridge, go through a red light by Parker's Piece.

          Really? I've never seen anyone stopped for running a red light on a bike by the police. I go through that junction quite a lot on a bike. Fortunately it's quite busy and even the most suidial of cyclists won't usually shoot straight out in front of a lorry or bus.

          It annoys me when cyclists run red lights, they give us all a bad name.

          And what the heck is it with people who will get on a bike with no brakes, no lights

          • by asdf7890 (1518587)

            If you want to be pulled over cycling in Cambridge, go through a red light by Parker's Piece.

            Really? I've never seen anyone stopped for running a red light on a bike by the police.

            I was once pulled over for this and given an on-the-spot fine. Well away from a police station, though the copper in question was on a cycle himself.

            Entirely justified: while I knew I was safe (I know which lights were on green, and there was no traffic coming those ways) and I could have tried to claim "by the time it was Red it wasn't safe to slam on the breaks" (it changed as I passed, I'm that argument sometimes holds water though it really shouldn't as the lights are on amber more than long enough b

          • by asdf7890 (1518587)

            Also what is it with cars feeling the need to overtake. Even if you're bobbling along in traffic at the same speed as the traffic, some lunatic will often try to overtake.

            They feel they are losing time if they are behind or otherwise at the same speed as a cyclist. Some people perpetually in a rush, some others are just small-dicked wonders who use speed as a compensating device. In either case I'd actually prefer they get past me than stay behind: in front of me I can see what they are doing better, behind me they are a less well seen danger.

            What annoys me sometimes is people slamming their foot down to overtake when I indicate that I intend to turn right (which will in

      • id imagine its exactly the same as in a car...do something wrong and you can be stopped...give them suspicions and they can search you.....being ona bike has nothing to do with it.

        A friend of mine used to live in Munich, and police routinely attempted to stop him for riding a bike without a light after dark, or similar silliness.

        Eventually, he moved to Dortmund, and police managed to stop him while he was riding his bike, and send him to prison in Munich...

        So, even on a bike you may be bothered if you annoy the authorities enough.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Silliness? Fuck you. You're on the road, turn your damn light on and warn people you're there. Pedestrians don't need to be run into by and cars don't need to be running into your asshole friend. Can't bike properly? Get off the fucking road idiot.

          • by oPless (63249)

            Absolutely. See my earlier comments about cyclists on Mill Road, Cambridge, Uk.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Silliness? Are you soft in the head?

          You need a light at night because humans aren't bats or dolphins and don't navigate by sonar.

          Bikes don't make very much noise (hence the little tinkly bell) and so pedestrians mightn't hear or see you coming at night and motorists mightn't notice you until it's too late. How can you not know or realize this?

          • by Ash Vince (602485) *

            Silliness? Are you soft in the head?

            You need a light at night because humans aren't bats or dolphins and don't navigate by sonar.

            Bikes don't make very much noise (hence the little tinkly bell) and so pedestrians mightn't hear or see you coming at night and motorists mightn't notice you until it's too late. How can you not know or realize this?

            I entirely agree with you when it comes to lights but the little tinkly bell is where I draw the line. If some moron pedestrian steps into the road in front of me they get an earful of abuse at the very least.

            I generally cycle everywhere at a pretty fast pace since the UK speed limit on most roads is 30mph and I am unlikely to exceed that. I have hit one pedestrian because he saw a row of traffic and stepped down off the curb without noticing the green marked cycle lane at the side of the road. I hit anothe

      • by Inda (580031)
        Driving for 20 years in the UK and I've lost count to the amount of times I've been pulled over.

        "Just a routine stop sir". Then you play twenty questions.

        The last time was because of my black passenger. He was black, you see. We must have been up to no good.

        During my younger days, I was pulled over once a week because I drove a nice sport car. I had the police on a harrasement charge for that.

        Been pulled on a bike too, and I'll admit I was on the pavement.

        For the record, m'am, five points and &#194;
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by tftp (111690)

      If you drive a car, at some point you're going to get pulled over. You're going to get a ticket of some sort with high probability.

      If you don't break the law you are not likely to be ever pulled over.

      In fact, I would say that a bike rider has more chances to interact with the police than a car driver. Roads are built for cars, whether you like it or not. A bicycle is not an equal on the road. Good, well trained riders are seldom a problem. But plenty don't bother to stop for the red light, for example,

      • by JasterBobaMereel (1102861) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @04:41AM (#40774457)

        If the Police (in the UK) Stop a Car driver they can legally ask for a driving licence (and so get identification)

        If the Police (in the UK) stop a cyclist or pedestrian, then they have no power of search or to ask for ID, unless they arrest you....which they are loathe to do without evidence ...

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Though, just in the interests of completeness (not contradicting), you have up to 2 weeks to show the ID at a police station if you don't have it with you (from memory, could be slightly longer or shorter).

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 26, 2012 @05:28AM (#40774661)

          They can ask until they're blue in the face, but they won't get it. You're not legally obliged to *carry* your identification when you're driving a car, so instead you would get a form (colloquially called 'a producer') which requires you to produce (show) your documents (driving licence, insurance and MOT test) at the police station of your choice within 7 days. Then, because you've not done something which you can be arrested for, you will be allowed on your way.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          They can use Stop and Search powers on you if they have some reason to suspect you may have been involved in a crime, like say you happen to match the description given of an alleged criminal. Of course if the description was "black guy" or "5"10' male" they can stop pretty much anyone.

      • and your blood taken,

        Only if you happen to ride in the Tour de France...

      • by monktus (742861)
        If you don't break the law you are not likely to be ever pulled over.

        You've obviously never driven in Northern Ireland.
    • by kraut (2788)

      If you take public transport, you're on CCTV everywhere.

      And your bike comes with an invisibility cloak?

      Naturally, you can be subject to searches when leaving train stations or even in bus stations.

      Naturally, you can also be subject to searches when cycling along the queen's highway.

      f you drive a car, at some point you're going to get pulled over. You're going to get a ticket of some sort with high probability.

      With cycling, there's no tax to pay. No fuel to pay for. There's no real way to be stopped and searched on a bicycle.

      Explain that to the 1,872 people who got fined for cycling through a red light. You sure there's no way to stop a cyclist?

      Often, it is faster than a car journey anyway.

      Yes, particularly in central London

      is probably one of the only remaining modes of transport that is truly free in both senses of the word.

      cheap != free.

    • I do the exact same thing in San Diego, California. An 8 mile trek one way only takes me thirty minutes, and with traffic in a car it can often take twenty anyway. I have found that cycling is more expensive than motorcycling though, it turns out the fuel to feed me is more expensive than gas.
  • Though I wouldn't be keen on the council monitoring it all I would certainly keep CCTV in my cab if I were a taxi driver as a deterrent. You hear of so many attacks on Taxi drivers, people running off without paying and false accusations of "improper behaviour" by female passengers that I would want it for self-protection.
    • by Shimbo (100005) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @04:24AM (#40774347)

      Though I wouldn't be keen on the council monitoring it all I would certainly keep CCTV in my cab if I were a taxi driver as a deterrent.

      I'm not sure where you got the idea the council was monitoring it all; that seems very unlikely to me. Also, the main part of the ICO ruling was that *audio* recording was a disproportionate breach of privacy.

    • by Ash Vince (602485) *

      Though I wouldn't be keen on the council monitoring it all I would certainly keep CCTV in my cab if I were a taxi driver as a deterrent. You hear of so many attacks on Taxi drivers, people running off without paying and false accusations of "improper behaviour" by female passengers that I would want it for self-protection.

      As a cab user there are a few occasions when I would have liked to be in a cab with cctv. Most often when I got some asshole cab driver on a slow night who wanted to drive the longest route possible or forget to zero the meter when you get in.

      I remember that when I was a student if you asked for the main halls of residence where first years lived and were in the centre of town late at night you were pretty much guaranteed to be driven in the wrong direction initially. Once you pointed out to the driver he w

  • by mrbester (200927) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @04:10AM (#40774265) Homepage

    I'm thinking that this is only because of the recording of conversations as all public transport has CCTV installed these days. None of them record your voice though there are rumblings of installing microphones in street lamps to complement the cameras. There's even talk of installing speakers which would make the England of V a reality.

  • ... a number of years ago the City Council offered to provide a CCTV service to the taxi trade, which was at the time somewhat concerned about the level of bad behaviour from punters, including assaults on drivers. But the trade didn't show any interest in the idea - or, at least, not in contributing to the cost! - so it was dropped.

    It never occured to us to make it compulsory, I cannot imagine a rationale for that.

  • ... insider trading by cabbies who get hot stock exchange info from their riders who work at banks?
  • Perhaps such a measure would at least get cabbies to shut up.
  • Taxis in finland (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 26, 2012 @06:39AM (#40774939)

    I drive a taxi in finland and each and every one of the taxis has a camera, a GPS logger and a sealed fare meter and gps navigation. For myself the gps and camera are features that I'd never do the work without. The camera installs in itself lowered taxi robbings and muggings to nearly zero, only leaving the people on drugs or alcohol who attack or try to rob taxi drivers.

    The gps is also a huge safety feature as when the panic button is pressed all of the others cars in town see me in their gps navigation and everyone near me comes to help. I'd never work in a company that covers the cameras or doesn't have the gps logging. Also the data in the camera is stored on an external server and is really hard to get to, requiring a police warrant to even see the data. I can only see a live feed from the camera in the car to adjust its angle.

    Of course in Finland the whole taxi industry is regulated by the government and the local cities, so that enables the huge security brought on by the GPS logging for the driver. Also as the taxi fares are calculated by GPS and by car speed data, and the fares are set by the government, as a passenger youi never have to be afraid of getting cheated with the meter.

  • I would think the more interesting conversations for authorities to monitor would be the ones the cab drivers have continuously on their cell phones.

  • by Gonoff (88518) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @08:57AM (#40775805)

    People in the US often have a different attitude to CCTV then many people on this side of the pond.

    You may see CCTV as an invasion of privacy. It actually varies here.

    I work in a hospital. There are a lot of cameras around here. I have never come across anyone who works here who does not want them. Most people actually want more. They are there for our protection. You don't get them in the wards, operating theatres, toilets. You get them in public areas like corridors, A&E, waiting areas car parks and so on. They can be used to send people to areas where trouble might occur. They can be used to record events that need police or legal action and so on.
    This has to be similar to CCTV in taxis. It could be used to deter (There are signs about it) and it can be used to prosecute. It might prosecute a taxi driver for attacking a passenger but is more likely to be used for the misdeeds of passengers.. I know taxi drivers like having CCTV. They would probably like it more if it was free but that's human. We just need councils keeping their noses out where they are not needed.

  • Southampton Council in the UK has been ordered to stop snooping on every taxi cab in the city

    That statement is inaccurate and inflammatory. It sounds like council has access to and is watching hours and hours of CCTV footage from cabs; that is not happening. There is a huge difference between recording and watching. Almost all the recorded footage will never leave the cab or be watched at all but will be erased as newer footage is recorded over it. How about mandating that recordings must be encrypted and can only be accessed by police with a proper warrant?

    The privacy watchdog has taken a particularly harsh stance against recording of conversations, as it is intrusive, but rarely necessary in the event of a crime being committed in the back of a cab.

    So cab drivers are rarely assaulted or ki

    • by ultranova (717540)

      By properly informing the passenger there is no expectation of privacy.

      Expectation of privacy is not merely about knowing whether you are being watched, it's also about whether you should be watched. For example, consider a landlord installing CCTV cameras in an apartment he rents, connected to his living room television: is it OK if he puts it in the contract? What about a government tracking every square inch of its territory with cameras with facial recognition, logging all your movements into a databas

      • by jklovanc (1603149)

        Anyone in a car with a stranger (the driver and passengers generally do no know each other) that can be seen into by anyone on the street has little expectation of privacy in the first place. The signs just remove the last little but of expectation. They can also choose to walk, get a ride from a friend, etc. One interesting point is that CCTV is used on public transport for security reasons, Why do taxi drivers have less right to security than a bus driver?

        Cameras in apartments? When one is alone with the

  • I see no problem with this.

    First of all, there's a clear warning displayed either outside or inside everywhere a system like this is used. Just pay attention and you'll be warned.

    Second, you're outside your home! - you cannot reasonably expect to be 'in private' outside your home, and this applies to both photos (including paparazzi) and various CCTV systems. Just accept it or stay home. If you're a law abiding citizen you have nothing to fear. No police or intelligence organization have resources to look a

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