Feeds

Royston cops' ANPR 'ring of steel' BREAKS LAW, snarls watchdog

24-hour spycam surveillance of sleepy town deemed 'excessive'

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

A system of police cameras that slurped the comings and goings of Brits living and working in the small Hertfordshire town of Royston has been found to be "unlawful" for collecting "excessive" information, the UK's data watchdog ruled today.

The local cops' Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) scheme had been dubbed "the ring of steel", after the cameras "made it impossible for anyone to drive their car in and out of Royston without a record being kept of the journey," the Information Commissioner's Office said.

It has issued an enforcement notice to the Hertfordshire Constabulary, whose press officer told The Register that, at time of writing, they were working on a statement about the data breach.

The ICO took action following a joint complaint from No CCTV, Big Brother Watch and Privacy International. Its investigators examined whether use of the cameras was justified and compliant with the Data Protection Act.

It wasn't.

The regulator concluded that the scheme was "disproportionate" and added that the constabulary had failed to carry out a proper impact assessment before implementing the ANPR system.

The ICO said that the force had breached two of the data protection principles, with its surveillance being "unlawful" and "excessive". It slapped an enforcement notice on Hertfordshire Constabulary and ordered them to stop slurping the data, unless they can justify use of the CCTV-tracking scheme.

ICO head of enforcement Stephen Exkersley said:

It is difficult to see why a small rural town such as Royston requires cameras monitoring all traffic in and out of the town 24 hours a day. The use of ANPR cameras and other forms of surveillance must be proportionate to the problem it is trying to address. After detailed enquiries, including consideration of the information Hertfordshire Constabulary provided, we found that this simply wasn’t the case in Royston.

We hope that this enforcement notice sends a clear message to all police forces: that the use of ANPR cameras needs to be fully justified before they are installed. This includes carrying out a comprehensive assessment of the impact on the privacy of the road-using public.

Campaign group No CCTV spokesman Charles Farrier described the watchdog's action as a "landmark decision."

He added: "The ICO has validated our view that blanket vehicle tracking should have no place in a democratic society. The ANPR camera network amounts to an automated checkpoint system that is the stuff of totalitarianism." ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.