The Surveillance Camera Commissioner has put a series of tough questions to the police forces that operate the ANPR system following disturbing revelations in my FOI work. Commissioner Tony Porter said in a speech to the ANPR user group conference:
‘Given we have legislation progressing through parliament relating to other forms of surveillance – are you happy that you, the police, have done everything in you power to establish a governance structure that reflects the current public mood? Where do I go to understand the layers of responsibility?’
It is hard to overstate the colossal scale of the ANPR system in the UK up to ten billion (billion) reads per year. Yet its governance is disturbingly informal and undocumented. As the government brings forward legislation for a new, internet surveillance system in the Investigatory Powers Bill it must demonstrate that it can manage existing systems better before it embarks upon a new one.
As I said in my letter to the Commissioner and as he quotes me in his speech, I am in favour of the ANPR system, 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.’
I also remain concerned about the fate of the ‘Olympic Feed’ an apparent copied pool of ANPR data the Met Police took, perhaps reasonably for the Olympics, but that as of Summer 2015 appeared still not to have been deleted despite agreements with the Information Commissioner’s office.
The Investigatory Powers Bill gives the government the ideal opportunity to put ANPR on a proper statutory basis with broadly based governance and I challenge the Home Office to do so.
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