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Growing concern over creeping police CCTV surveillance on Britain’s roads

The number of police CCTV cameras placed on Britain’s roads has almost doubled over the last three years giving police forces and the security services access to more than 26 million images a day, which includes a picture of the driver of the motor vehicle and instant number plate recognition.

There are now more than 8,000 cameras in the national network with plans to increase the number thanks to improving technology and the use of portable cameras.

Currently, a national database that stores pictures taken by the automated number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras already active has 17 billion images in its archive, which is the largest archive of its kind in the world. The police also want to link the UK database, called the National ANPR Data Centre (NADC), with similar systems across Europe.

The pictures can be kept for up to two years and crosschecked with other police and state-run databases.

Originally, the ANPR cameras were meant only to record the details of motor vehicles that were already on a police stolen list. But police forces have now begun recording every vehicle that passes one of the cameras.

The first ANPR cameras were introduced in 1984 on the M1 to help identify stolen vehicles, but in 2005 the Labour government approved a scheme to set up a further 2,000 cameras across the country and establish a national database.

This frightening extension of police CCTV surveillance on Britain’s roads has occurred without proper scrutiny and public debate and the police are increasingly becoming more like a Stasi-like intelligence agency, gathering details about people’s lives that it does not need to acquire or retain.