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Police number plate system needs regs

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Home Secretary Theresa May is calling for the police network of automatic number plate recognition cameras to be put under some form of regulation.

ANPR is used by all local police forces as well as Customs and Excise, SOCA and the MoD.

Some 4,045 fixed and mobile cameras contribute 10 million reports of motorist movements every day from England and Wales. Scotland's ANPR system is regulated and run separately.

In total the the National ANPR data centre holds 7.6 billion records.

The primary purpose of ANPR was to help catch uninsured or MOT-less drivers, but the database has also been data-mined for detailed tracking information in some high profile cases.

Home Office minister James Brokenshire told the Observer: "Both CCTV and ANPR can be essential tools in combating crime, but the growth in their use has been outside of a suitable governance regime. To ensure that these important technologies continue to command the support and confidence of the public and are used effectively, we believe that further regulation is required.

"We are examining a number of options and will also be considering the work of the interim CCTV regulator, who is due to report to ministers shortly."

Options for regulation include:

• Establishing the lawful right to collect and retain ANPR data for policing

• Defining exactly how this information can be used for policing purposes

• Limiting by whom and for how long ANPR data can be stored

• Establishing who can have access to ANPR data and for what purposes

• Enabling the bulk transfer of data between agencies and between the private sector and the police for agreed purposes

• Making ANPR cameras transparent to the public, except when they're being used for covert surveillance

• Establishing a means of redress around the use of ANPR data

To an ignorant observer like this reporter, most of the above sound like the kind of things you might sort out in the very early stages of a project rather than after it goes live, but what do we know?

In unrelated creepy camera news, a Scottish company has released a name tag with a high definition video camera on the back.

The idea of "My Witness" is that a vulnerable worker, like a nurse, would flick the badge round if they were feeling threatened. It can then record up to ten hours of high-def footage.

We're not sure this would do much to make an attack less likely but we do look forward to the inevitable improper uses, and leaks, the badges get used for. Big Brother Watch has more. ®

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