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From a pure disorder prevention perspective, there is much to be said for these devices. The Met have said that it may recommend that premises install "identification scanning... as a condition of licensing based on the past history of crime levels in the venue and an assessment as to whether the installation of such a system may help to prevent or reduce similar incidents occurring at the venue in future".

Southwark Police, in whose area SEOne is situated, are currently working with several licensed premises in the area to pilot a six month trial of electronic ID scanning systems: the machines are being loaned and paid for by funding from the Home Office.

We asked the Met whether they were not concerned with the broader picture: after all, even if the systems are themselves secure, it has not been unknown for some clubs to be associated with various forms of crime, both organised and otherwise. Surely, pushing for wider and wider installation of private systems that gather and hold personal data was asking for trouble?

The Met see this is a totally separate issue, and not relevant to the installation of the machines for crime prevention purposes. Besides, the decision to install was taken by clubs or by local licensing authorities: it is not the Met’s responsibility.

The Home Office appear equally disinclined to accept any responsibility: businesses are bound by licensing agreements. That is up to local bodies, and the Home Office is not going to apologise for any laws it has passed in respect of age conditions. Besides, their spokeswoman added: "It is up to individuals whether or not they visit a club."

They also felt that comparing government hands-off attitude in this case to their hands-on approach in respect of, say, speeding or eating, was wholly misguided.

Neither police nor the Home Office appear to be at all concerned that the sort of data that these systems will pick up is of great potential interst to both criminals and terrorists: neither organisation felt that there was any great issue in respect to the mass introduction of this technology on the High Street.

Presumably, on the day that the majority of pubs, clubs, off-licences and corner shops have installed this technology, the authorities will set up a working party to consider the security implications. ®

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