I have written before about governance of police data in my role as a former member of the Crime and Justice Sector Transparency Panel. The automatic number plate recognition system in the UK is huge – as many as ten billion number plate reads a year spread across a sprawling system loosely joined together. Reads are retained for two years. ANPR could be one of the world’s largest non-military surveillance systems and probably contains more data about people than the NHS. In principle, I support ANPR as a necessary system for public safety and crime fighting but governance of such a system is central to its safe operation. Governance should be broadly based, expert, involving lay voices with clear lines of accountability and where possible take place in public. The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) very broadly holds the ring for the ANPR system. I put in an FOI request to the NPCC about ANPR governance and today received a reply that caused me great concern, including strong criticism by the ICO of the current system and a police proposal to increase data retention from two years to seven. The letter below breaks down the documents.
Overall I am concerned that the governance of the ANPR system is inadequate for billions of records, of which the vast majority will relate to innocent people’s private journeys. The police may well be acting unlawfully in storing data past their agreed two year period, the proposals to extend to seven years are implausible against this background. If new guidelines are being drawn up it is wrong in principle to do this in secrecy. The Metropolitan Police in particular appear to be holding a large pool of data sourced during the Olympic period for longer than their permitted two years.
I have quickly written to the Surveillance Camera Commissioner as below and shall write further here on the matter.
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