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:: Tuesday, May 26, 2009 ::

Who's Watching You?

A national network of cameras and computers automatically logging car number plates will be in place within months, the BBC has learned.

Thousands of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras are already operating on Britain's roads. Police forces across England, Wales and Scotland will soon be able to share the information on one central computer.

John Catt found himself on the wrong side of the ANPR system. He regularly attends anti-war demonstrations outside a factory in Brighton, his home town.

It was at one of these protests that Sussex police put a "marker" on his car. That meant he was added to a "hotlist".

This is a system meant for criminals but John Catt has not been convicted of anything and on a trip to London, the pensioner found himself pulled over by an anti-terror unit.

"I was threatened under the Terrorist Act. I had to answer every question they put to me, and if there were any questions I would refuse to answer, I would be arrested. I thought to myself, what kind of world are we living in?"

Sussex police would not talk about the case.

The police say they do not know how many cameras there are in total, and they say that for operational reasons they will not say where the fixed cameras are positioned.

The police themselves say they have nothing to hide and would welcome the introduction of a regulatory code. But that seems some way off - and for now this secretive system continues to watch us and continues to grow.


It's nice that the Police acknowledge the need for regulation but shouldn't that be in place BEFORE the system goes live, not after it goes wrong?

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