The UK police are to expand a car surveillance operation that will allow them to record and store details of millions of daily journeys for up to five years, the Guardian has learned.
A national network of roadside cameras will be able to
"read" 50m licence plates a day, enabling officers to reconstruct the journeys of motorists.
Police have been encouraged to fully and strategically exploit the database, which is already recording the whereabouts of 10 million
drivers a day, during investigations ranging from counter-terrorism to low-level crime.
But it has raised concerns from civil rights campaigners, who question whether the details should be kept for so long, and want clearer guidance on who might
have access to the material.
The project relies on automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras to pinpoint the precise time and location of all vehicles on the road. Senior officers had promised the data would be stored for two years. But
responding to inquiries under the Freedom of Information Act, the Home Office has admitted the data is now being kept for five years.
Thousands of CCTV cameras across the country have been converted to read ANPR data, capturing people's movements
in cars on motorways, main roads, airports and town centres. Local authorities have since adapted their own CCTV systems to capture licence plates on behalf of police, massively expanding the network of available cameras. Mobile cameras have been
installed in patrol cars and unmarked vehicles parked by the side of roads. Police helicopters have been equipped with infrared cameras that can read licence plates from 610 metres (2,000ft).
In four months' time, when a nationwide network of
cameras is fully operational, the National ANPR Data Centre in Hendon, north London, will record up to 50m licence plates a day.
Officers can access the database to find uninsured cars, locate illegal "duplicate" licence plates and
track the movements of criminals. The Acpo adds that the database will deter criminals through increased likelihood of detection.
The director of Privacy International, Simon Davies, said last night the database would give police extraordinary powers of surveillance. This would never be allowed in any other democratic country. This is possibly one of the most valuable reserves of data imaginable.
Every time you travel by road in Britain, your car will be tracked by the police. How many more freedoms will we sacrifice in the name of security?
The police ANPR database, which the Guardian today reveals will retain information from 50 million
road journeys a day for five years, is a system that was never sanctioned or debated in parliament and which threatens the freedom of movement, assembly and protest.
Presented simply as a tool to fight crime and terror by the police, it will
become one of the cornerstones of the surveillance state, and will give the police far too much power to track, in real time, the movement of people who may be bound for legitimate demonstrations and protest rallies.
Linked with the government's
proposals to seize all our communications data to be announced in the Queen's speech this autumn, this move signifies a profound change in our society and an irreversible transfer of power from free individuals to the state.
I hope you enjoyed your holiday in Pattaya. Your teaching licence has now been revoked on grounds of immorality
The government is building a database to track and hold the international travel records of all 60m Britons.
The intelligence centre will store names, addresses, telephone numbers, seat reservations, travel itineraries and credit card details
for all 250m passenger movements in and out of the UK each year.
The computerised pattern of every individual's travel history will be stored for up to 10 years, the Home Office admits.
The government claims the new database, to be housed
in an industrial estate in Wythenshawe, near Manchester, is essential in the fight against crime, illegal immigration and terrorism. However, opposition MPs, privacy campaigners and some government officials fear it is a significant step towards a total
Chris Grayling, shadow home secretary, said: The government seems to be building databases to track more and more of our lives. The justification is always about security or personal protection. But the truth is that we
have a government that just can't be trusted over these highly sensitive issues. We must not allow ourselves to become a Big Brother society.
Some immigration officials with knowledge of the plans admit there is likely to be public concern.
A lot of this stuff will have a legitimate use in the fight against crime and terrorism, but it's what else it could be used for that presents a problem, said one: It will be able to detect whether parents are taking their children abroad
during school holidays. It could be useful to the tax authorities because it will tell them how long non-UK domiciled people are spending in the UK.
The Wythenshawe spy centre will house more than 300 police and immigration officers. A
similar number of technicians will help check travellers' details against police, MI5, benefit agency and other government “watch lists”.
The database is the unpublicised part of the government's so-called e-borders programme, intended to
count everyone who comes in and out of the country by 2014. At the moment the UK Border Agency is running a pilot which monitors the travel movements of passengers on high-risk routes from airports, including Heathrow and Gatwick.
the scheme, once a person buys a ticket to travel to or from the UK by air, sea or rail, the carrier will deliver that person's data to the agency. The data is then checked against various watchlists to identify those involved in abuse of UK immigration
laws, serious and organised crime, and terrorism.
The travel plans and personal details of every traveller who leaves Britain are to be tracked by the Government, the Daily Telegraph can disclose.
Anyone departing the UK by land, sea or air will have their trip recorded and stored on a database
for a decade.
Passengers leaving every international sea port, station or airport will have to supply detailed personal information as well as their travel plans. So-called booze crusiers who cross the Channel for a couple of hours to
stock up on wine, beer and cigarettes will be subject to the rules.
In addition, weekend sailors and sea fishermen will be caught by the system if they plan to travel to another country - or face the possibility of criminal prosecution.
The owners of light aircraft will also be brought under the system, known as e-borders, which will eventually track 250 million journeys annually.
Even swimmers attempting to cross the Channel and their support teams will be subject to the rules which will require the provision of travellers' personal information such as passport and credit card details, home and email addresses and exact
The full extent of the impact of the government's e-borders scheme emerged amid warnings that passengers face increased congestion as air, rail and ferry companies introduce some of the changes over the Easter holidays.
95%of people leaving the country being subject to the plans by the end 2010. Yachtsmen, leisure boaters, trawlermen and private pilots will be given until 2014 to comply with the programme.
They will be expected to use the internet to send their details each time they leave the country and would face a fine of up to £5,000 should they fail to do so. Similar penalties will be enforced on airlines, train and ship operators if
they fail to provide details of every passenger to the UK Border Agency.
In most cases the information will be expected to be provided 24 hours ahead of travel and will then be stored on a Government database for around ten years.
is not the only country to require such information from travel operators. The USA also demands the same information be supplied from passengers wishing to visit America. But the scale of the scheme has alarmed civil liberties campaigners.
Your travel data is much more sensitive than you might think,
Phil Booth of the privacy group, NO2ID said: Given that for obvious reasons we're encouraged not to put our home address on our luggage labels, and especially given the Government's appalling record on looking after our data, it just doesn't seem
sensible for it to pass details like this and sensitive financial information around.
Ferry firms and Eurostar - who, unlike airlines, do not gather such detailed passenger information - have also raised concerns about the impact on
passengers and warned the plans may not even be legal under EU law. The changes would mean that Eurostar, Eurotunnel and ferry companies will now have to demand passport details from passengers at the time of booking, along with the credit card
information and email address which they would have taken at the time of the reservation.
Passengers on ferries to the Isle of Wight and Scottish islands such as Mull and Skye will soon have to carry identity papers to comply with new police powers.
And travellers flying between British cities or to Northern Ireland face having their
personal data logged when booking tickets and checking in.
Until now ferry passengers on most routes in Britain have not been required to produce ID and internal flight passengers only face random police checks.
But under new Government
security rules that will come into force next year, personal data, including name, date of birth and home address, will be typed into a computer record for the police by the booking clerk or travel agent.
Under the new powers, police will be able
to track the movements of around 60million domestic passengers a year. The controversial measures were due to be introduced two years ago, but were dropped after protests from Ulster politicians, who said the plan would construct ‘internal borders' in
But last week the Government used the release of its anti-terrorism strategy to quietly reintroduce them. Buried on Page 113 of the 174-page ‘CONTEST' document was the announcement of new police powers to collect advanced passenger
data on some domestic air and sea journeys.
Last night a Home Office spokesman confirmed the measures would require passengers to show photo ID, such as a driving licence or the (proposed) Government ID cards, when booking tickets for
domestic air and sea journeys.
He added that ferry journeys to the Isle of Wight or the Isle of Skye and private jet passengers would be included in the new measures, due to be formally announced later this year. The powers will
be introduced using a so-called statutory instrument signed off by the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, without the need for a full debate in the House of Commons.
Plans to force passengers travelling from Ireland and the Channel Islands to carry a passport for travel to mainland Britain have been quietly shelved.
The move to introduce passport controls within the Common Travel Area - which includes
Ireland, Great Britain, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands - for the first time in more than 80 years had been criticised by airlines and ferry companies, amid warnings of "travel chaos" at airports and terminals.
year, peers in the House of Lords voted against the proposal, contained in the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill.
Alan Johnson, the new Home Secretary, ruled that the Government would not fight to restore the measure, which would have
affected the 15 million people who travel within the British Isles each year, when it returned to the Commons, effectively killing the plan off.
Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, said: Conservatives have argued consistently that
the Common Travel Area is useful for the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Channel Islands and that the Government was wrong in seeking to abolish it. We are delighted that our arguments have won the day.
A spokesman for the British Air
Transport Association said that it had called for the rules to be clarified to avoid confusion at airports.
The town of Royston in Hertfordshire is to become Britain's first ring of steel town, with hidden Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras installed on every single road in and out of the town by next month.
rolled out the usual platitudes to explain the introduction of this nefarious system:
...make Royston the safest town in Hertfordshire...They give the police hard evidence as they track known villains...It will make us the
safest town in Hertfordshire and you won't be able to drive in or out of the town without being clocked...We will be the only town in Britain that will have ANPR on every approach to the town.
Chris Farrier, a spokesman for the
civil liberties group No CCTV, expressed serious concerns about the dangers of systems like this:
It is a hugely worrying development. It has been developed with no public scrutiny and government legislation. This
is the biggest surveillance network that the British public have never heard of. The people of Royston had better get informed because their one is being described as a 'ring of steel.
The public have not been consulted about
this cruel abuse of privacy to monitor and store the movements of everyone who visits the town of Royston on a centralised database for 5 years.
The inevitable conclusion is a nationwide network of ANPR cameras, ensuring that all movement of
citizens can be monitored.
Hertfordshire Constabulary attempted to shutdown an anti-ANPR website in Royston. This wasn't done via a court order, but through a bungling communications officer who
contacted Andrew Fowley the site host. Andrew feeling threatened by the request, and considering it an order the host took down the site. Only later after advice from this solicitor put it back up, and ask for the police to issue an injunction against
Cambridge News reported on all of this, complete with quotes from Steve Jolly the anti-surveillance campaigning who helped defeat project Champion. Steve rightly said that people should be intimidated by the police. This news report from
Cambridge News has now vanished from their website, which is odd as normally they keep their stories up for a number of years.
The anti-ANPR site has been back up a couple of days, but has now switched to displaying a blank page. It's almost
like it never happened....
Cameras at petrol stations will automatically stop uninsured or untaxed vehicles from being filled with fuel, under new UK government plans. Downing Street officials hope the hi-tech system will crack down on the 1.4million motorists who drive without
Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras are already fitted in thousands of petrol station forecourts. Drivers can only fill their cars with fuel once the camera has captured and logged the vehicle's number plate. Currently the
system is designed to deter motorists from driving off without paying for petrol. But under the new plans, the cameras will automatically check with the DVLA's database.
Downing Street officials are due to meet representatives from the major fuel
companies in the next few weeks to discuss the idea.
Some petrol retailers said the proposals were a step too far - claiming they put cashiers at risk. Brian Madderson, from RMI Petrol said: This proposal will increase the potential for
conflict. Our cashiers are not law enforcers.