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Police Given Access to Congestion-Charge Cameras 293

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 @03:18PM (#19905295)
    Mmm, frog stew.
  • The best part. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Radon360 ( 951529 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:19PM (#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.

  • Slope: Slippery (Score:2, Insightful)

    by popejeremy ( 878903 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:20PM (#19905325) Homepage
    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?
  • yeah but... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by thatskinnyguy ( 1129515 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:21PM (#19905337)
    isn't this just enabling police to watch things happen instead of doing things about it?
  • Re:The best part. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nightwraith ( 180411 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:22PM (#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...
  • by tiedyejeremy ( 559815 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:23PM (#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.
  • New Rules? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by keithmo ( 453716 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:23PM (#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.

  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:26PM (#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.
  • Re:The best part. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cuantar ( 897695 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:29PM (#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*
  • Re:The best part. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phil reed ( 626 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:31PM (#19905523) Homepage
    It's called "mission creep []".
  • by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:31PM (#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.
  • Re:Hm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Volante3192 ( 953645 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:32PM (#19905549)
    And then what? Assult? Property damage? Jaywalking? Littering? Unregistered gatherings...that simply turns out to be three people waiting for the lorry?

    It always seems reasonable until it becomes too late to change it.
  • by tsbiscaro ( 888711 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:34PM (#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". es []
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:40PM (#19905653)

    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?

  • Re:The best part. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Hodar ( 105577 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:43PM (#19905693)
    Let me see if I understand.
    If a bomb does go off - people will scream "Why didn't you prevent this! Look at the senseless loss of life! Our police are useless".

    If the police use existing cameras to OBSERVE you; you become paranoid and delusional about police spying on you. Let's have just a wee bit of common sense. If the police were 1% as competent as you are giving them credit for; every murder would be solved, no mugger would walk the streets and all traffic fines would be collected. Car theft wouldn't exist, neither would rape, burlary or purse snatchers.

    Best case - police solve more crimes.
    Wost case - police watch you and I live our BORING lives. You are just not that important; no one cares what you do. Break some laws, well; then things are a wee bit different then.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:45PM (#19905711)

    Yeah, that's right. Kill the Muslims, because all 1.6 million [] of them living in the UK must be terrorists!

    Don't you even consider that if you tolerate all Muslims being murdered then maybe you'll be next? And that if all Muslims were terrorists then we'd have a full-scale civil war going on?

    Just remember that most of those people who have 'invaded' are normal, peaceful, law abiding citizens. Stop reading The Sun and The Daily Mail, pull your head out of your arse and get a grip on reality. Please, for the sake of our society.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:46PM (#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.
  • Yep. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by iknownuttin ( 1099999 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @03:54PM (#19905837)
    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 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.

    I don't know about you, but Osama and gang have been very effectual and are doing a great job winning the "War on Terror" (TM). (We're living in a state of terror - aren't we?)

    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.

  • by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @04:10PM (#19906057) Journal
    That attack was clearly carried out by enemies of Oceania, specifically Emmanuel Goldstein and Eurasia! Please take comfort in the security measures now in place on Airstrip One [].
  • Re:The best part. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Radon360 ( 951529 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @04:17PM (#19906161)

    Wost case - police watch you and I live our BORING lives

    And once in a while, something funny, embarassing, or otherwise destructive to one's social character mysteriously shows up on YouTube or a BBC comedy show take-off of "funny videos". Mind you that you can be on your utmost best behavior in public, and still be a hapless victim caught up in someone else's asshattery.

    Yeah no one cares too much about what you do as long as it's legal, moral and ethical. But if it's at least mildly entertaining, it's marketable, regardless of whether it's legal, moral, or ethical to do so.

    I think the problem that most people have is despite the police being held accountable to very high standards of integrity, police are people, too. Abuse, while rare, still happens because of this fact. Thinking of it in another way, many people consider themselves to be under the constant watch of God. The police are not God, nor can they fully act in a godly, devine, and omnipotent manner. Why try to move them closer (albeit in a very small step) to the empowerment of such that they are incapable of handling? (Okay, there's my crack at philosophy for the day...)

  • by meringuoid ( 568297 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @04:18PM (#19906183)
    This was always coming [].

    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:The best part. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by stewwy ( 687854 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @04:23PM (#19906235)
    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
  • Re:Oh no! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anon-Admin ( 443764 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @04:26PM (#19906283) Journal
    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 the advent of the always watching authority, you have lost the anonymity. Why can this not work both ways, would you be OK setting up cameras and allowing anyone on the internet to watch them? How about allowing the face recognition software and everyone passing the camera is ID'd and put on the internet? You are in public, you have no privacy, so you do not mind the world tuning in and watching you?

    As to the police officer stopping you and fucking with you, you can always ask if you are under arrest. If he says "No" you thank him for his time and walk away. They can not follow you, they can not harass you, They can not just search you for no reason.
  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @04:26PM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @04:27PM (#19906313)
    It's pretty clear that you've never been the victim of police harassment. Or of government harassment. Folks in those positions use every tool possible to harass people they don't like, if they can get away with it.

    Heck, one woman here in the States reported that the traffic cop who pulled her over ran a check on her recent purchases (thanks to the credit card datamines) and told her what type of underwear she had recently bought.

    Let me also guess that you've never been the victim of sexual harassment.

    There's a very good reason why it's a good thing to limit power of those on the government payroll. It's because this power corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    I suppose you can live like a cog in a wheel, and always living under the threat of never trying to piss your masters off. But there's a price to paid for living free. And that price involves limiting the power of those who would enslave you.
  • Re:Yep. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by iknownuttin ( 1099999 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @05:06PM (#19906807)
    If you live in the UK or US then you have probably never experienced many MOMENTS of terror, let alone LIVED in terror.

    As far as folks in the UK are concerned, I guess you never heard of the IRA. That's the reason that to this day, you will not find any trash cans on most London streets.

    Also, if you truly believe that police monitoring TRAFFIC cameras in the UK was one of the goals of the terrorists then I want to have words with your teachers.
    The goals of terrorists are to get us to be terrified and to allow our Governments to continue the erosion of our privacy and Civil Liberties. Monitoring by Police, for whatever reason, is yet another means of said destruction of those liberties.

    So while we should be vigilant we also should be thankful for the freedoms we have,
    I am so grateful for them and love them so much, that I become quite angry when any one of them is eroded for achieving the sense of (false) security.

    ...grateful to those who died so that we could have them, and honor those who sacrifice so much to maintain them even to this day
    I have a several family members who would shove their Bronze Stars up your ass for saying that to me.

    They have sadly let you down in both your education and critical thinking skills.
    I'll be crying myself to sleep tonight because of that comment.

  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @05:19PM (#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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @05:26PM (#19907039)
    How about we give all the cops anal probes? I don't like being watched when and where there is no reason to be watched. It is senseless.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @05:56PM (#19907361)
    An obvious reason this invades privacy is that this sort of surveillance can be used to record where you were at what time, that individuals in the government can go to a database later and paint themselves a pretty picture of exactly where you've been for the last x years...the way things USED to be is that the typical individual onlooker who might casually see you in public really couldn't put such a picture together, so your general pattern of behavior before was catalogued or remembered, even though many many people may have technically observed it (they just don't retain the info cuz they don't remember everyone they've ever seen or what they were doing). So, with this new kind of tech, the kind of information about you that was previously unobtainable from your very public behavior is now possible to record and keep. So, things about you that used to be private by virtue of limited surveillance networks and the attitude of an ordinary bloke on the street who couldn't care who you are...well, those things are now going to be catalogued.

    So, going down the pike to philly for a political rally in your car would have been private at one time, cuz no one would record it (unless you specifically are tailed) and the other people who happen to drive by wouldn't pay you a second thought cuz you're just another car on the road. Now...things are going to get to the point where a surveillance network can follow the whereabouts of ALL cars everywhere in most big cities. With cameras watching pedestrians on top of that, pretty much any dissident (by which I mean peaceful protesters) can be found and tracked and blackmailed/harassed much more efficiently. The anonymous "angry mob" that previous governments have had to please to survive can now be catalogued and effectively dealt with, striking fear into those who might think about joining them.

    So there.

  • Re:The best part. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rifter ( 147452 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @07:25PM (#19908303) Homepage

    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 people will use it, as long as they are clueful enough to do so.

  • Re:The best part. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JohnBailey ( 1092697 ) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @04:12AM (#19911599)

    I would much prefer that they get rid of these people off the street or stop the next building from exploding then them having a video of me walking down the road and catching me looking at some girls ass, or pissing on a building when I have been drinking. It affects me and the community more with crime and the whole country with acts of terrorist then it does being caught on a video (which will never be used, unless there happens to be a terrorist standing right next to me while I walk past.)
    Thank you for informing us of one count of stalking, and one count of indecent exposure. Unless the girl in question was under the age of sixteen, in which case we can add grooming to the list. As these are all seen a s precursor crimes, you will be delighted to know that you are now on our sex offender register.

    Congratulations sir... You are the people we are trying to get off the street. Please present yourself at your nearest police station with a full confession to each of these crimes and any others not detailed above.
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @08:46AM (#19912899)

    I am quite willing to consider alternatives to my own viewpoint. I just think that the argument you make is a very dangerous one.

    You focus on one side of the debate: the potential benefits of using cameras in this way. In fact, I would state the case for this more strongly than you do:

    Well someone, in fact a whole committee, has sat down and used common sense. They accept that widespread use of the cameras for all crime prevention would be against the public interest.

    That clearly isn't true: use of cameras for crime prevention unquestionably is in the public interest.

    The danger, which you gloss over in making your case, is that in allowing the use of cameras in ways that might prevent crimes, you also open the door to deliberate abuse and accidental mistakes.

    For example, take your opening comment:

    The police have been criticised during recent cases because it has become apparent that the individuals concerned were known to the police before they conducted whatever attack they are accused of but the police had insufficient resources to maintain 24 hour surveillance on each individual it has in its database. The known individuals have associated data linked to them which includes any vehicle that they own or are known to be associated with.

    Did you know that one of the recent leaks suggested that simply driving along in front of or behind a suspect's vehicle could put your own car on a watch list?

    Fortunately, we have a system of due process that guards against the dangers of guilt by association []. But then in your very next paragraph, you attempt to undermine this:

    Having a name on a database is not the same as having sufficient evidence to persuade a judge that a warrant for surveillance should be granted. Now, what a dilemma. We have the information available but we cannot give it to the police because they haven't got a warrant until someone gets killed. But how do we protect people and try to prevent them from getting killed?

    You make the flawed assumption that in such cases, someone will die if there is no time to convince a judge to award a warrant. Clearly this is not always the case. You also make the implicit assumption that if a judge declined to award a warrant in these circumstances, that would be a bad thing, rather than effectively protecting an innocent person from unreasonable persecution. This also is not necessarily true.

    We live in a society where the government is increasingly taking your line, to the point that an innocent citizen can now have their freedoms abruptly curtailed just for being a suspect in an investigation. Freedoms that can be removed so easily are just illusions.

    Of course, it's easy to rationalise this away. There's no smoke without fire, right? And anyway, it only applies to Bad People:

    They are NOT tracking everybody.

    Unfortunately, this is simply not true []. They are deliberately tracking everybody, and as the statistics released under a Freedom of Information request earlier this week demonstrated, more than half of the people arrested in recent terrorism investigations have later been released without charge, so obviously the authorities do make mistakes, and often.

    So I'm afraid I don't agree with you when you say this:

    This is just about as measured a response as is possible taking into account everyone's rights and interests.

    There will be some, perhaps even yourself, who will scoff and claim that this is a useless measure. If so, please enlighten us all as to your preferred solution to the problem.

Put no trust in cryptic comments.