Sadiq Khan issues legal challenge after decision to take ‘terrifying’ license plate photo | UK News

If you’re driving in London, chances are the camera will see you.

The city uses a network of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras to scan the way for vehicles entering and exiting toll zones.

The UK road system is carpet with these cameras.

According to figures from the National Council of Chiefs of Police, every day, about 13,000 arrests 55 million “reads”, because license plate identification has been identified.

But nowhere are they more dense than the capital city, which is said to have around 2,000 cameras, sending tens of millions of readings a day to their operator, Transport for London.

Now, the mayor of London has given police access to more data from a larger number of cameras, and privacy campaigners are ready to help.

“It’s appalling,” said London Member of Parliament Sian Berry, who along with privacy campaigners the Open Rights Group is launching a legal challenge against the mayor’s decision.

They warn that although scanning car license plates may seem innocent, it is not.

First, because the record of a vehicle’s journey is an insight into the movements of the driver or passenger.

Second, because ANPR cameras don’t just scan numbers and letters, they also take pictures, including a “front-of-car photo” that captures everything that’s happening around when the image is taken.

This includes the color and style of vehicles, and possibly the faces of passing drivers and pedestrians – what the London government calls “enhanced context data”.

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Are you being tracked? Increase in ANPR

Previously, the Metropolitan Police only had access to data from ANPR cameras in central London and did not receive any images, only “reading” where and when a number plate was picked up.

The force has now been given full access to cameras across inner London, an area far more populated than central London (3.8 million versus 200,000), and This amount can also view photos.

A spokesman for the Mayor of London said: “Modern technology has a vital role to play in protecting Londoners and tackling serious crime.

“The use of traffic cameras for ANPR has been going on since 2015 after being introduced by the previous Mayor. We are reviewing the letter and will respond in due time.”

The Metropolitan Police defended the need for the data, saying it helps police protect the public and avoid errors in vehicle identification.

The force said ANPR images were “very unlikely to be of sufficient quality to identify a driver or a passenger”, adding that in any event Londoners may have “little expectation of privacy”. private” while driving their car.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan speaks to journalists at City Hall, east London, after the Metropolitan Police came under special measures.  Date taken: Wednesday, June 29, 2022.
Sadiq Khan’s decision has been criticized by advocacy groups

Mrs. Berry was more specific. She says the extra access creates the prospect of a privacy campaigner’s worst nightmare: a database filled with deep personal data that could be searched by any police officer. when they want.

“We are aware that there have been officers disciplined and expelled from school for spying on their ex-partners using data held by the police,” she said.

“In the absence of proper internal controls, it actually increases that risk of harm.”

Ms. Berry pointed out that police can get data from ANPR cameras for investigation, a power source that has been used 33,000 times by the Metropolitan Police in 2020 alone, but they must request and provide a reason for using the data. Whether.

Access granted by the mayor could create a database for police to “play with”, she said, noting that scanning facial recognition on photos would be very simple.

In a letter to the mayor announcing their intention to sue, Ms. Berry and the Open Rights Group argued that the decision to extend the powers of the Metropolitan Police in this way was unlawful, as it was made. without proper consultation.

When Sadiq Khan granted access in May of this year, he cited a public consultation held in 2014, an exercise that campaigners and their lawyers at Bindmans said could not be solved. for such a large-scale increase in police access.

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Jim Killock, chief executive of Open Rights Group, said: “With the stroke of a pen, Sadiq Khan made a decision that violated the basic privacy rights of millions of Londoners.” community consultation on the go.

Mr Killock is concerned that the worse is to come, as the mayor plans to expand the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone to cover the whole of Greater London from the end of 2023, significantly increasing the number and scope of these ANPR camera.

If this happened, he said, “every car, driver and pedestrian in Greater London would be subject to the supervision of the Metropolitan Police, but Londoners have no say in this”.

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