An investigation by Sky News has revealed what the channel calls the “massive scale” of surveillance cameras on the UK’s roads, which take approximately 34 million images each day.
It says that the Police now have access to more than 22 billion records, which are kept for two years, and that they are checking that database more and more, making 300,758 searches in 2014, up from 194,317 in 2012.
Sky News’s Technology Correspondent Tom Cheshire writes that the Information Commissioner’s Office has raised concerns over these new figures, with head of steric liaison Jonathan Bamford, saying, “you’ve really got to ask the question about the extent of ANPR and the amount of records that it’s collecting.
“There are a lot of people going around on their ordinary day to day business doing nothing wrong, innocent individuals – those are being acquired at the rate of 30 million or so a day and being retained for a number of years.
“You end up with a picture where there’s not a lot of our lives taking place which the state can’t gain access to in some ways. So it’s very, very important that there’s a proper public policy debate about the extent of surveillance in the United Kingdom.”
Sky says these new figures, obtained under freedom of information laws, were only released by the Home Office under the threat of legal action, and that the Home Office refused Sky News’s requests for an interview.
In a statement they said: “The Automatic Number Plate Recognition system is a valuable source of intelligence and evidence for police in the prevention and detection of crime.
“Its use is subject to strict safeguards in the Data Protection Act, as well as the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice.”