Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 2:08PM
With 4.2 million CCTV cameras currently in operation in the UK -- that's one for every 14 residents -- what's a couple thousand more?
Recent news out of the UK (via @Steve_Hunt and @kasrar) is that within months a national grid of cameras will be able to automatically read and record license plate numbers. Thousands of cameras are already operating in the UK, and soon enough that ANPR metadata will be shared and available to England, Wales and Scotland via one central computer.
With cameras scanning over 10 million plates daily, it won't matter whether you're driving a stolen vehicle or your mom's Volvo -- the plate number will be logged and stored for two years.
Not surprising that the new implementation is drawing red flags from folks concerned about the lack of regulation and personal information protection -- and for good reason! Even if the technology is intended for criminals rather than law-abiding citizens (police have already seen a 40% increase in arrests!) the public have the right to ensure that personal privacy rights are not infringed upon and that proper regulation of information is enforced.
Many details are still to be worked out, such as a regulatory code for the grid -- the system is far from flawless in nature -- but it looks like the UK is well on its way to effectively utilizing CCTV to cut down on crimes. Let's hope they use it for tracking down criminals and stolen vehicles rather than stopping red-light runners and other minor traffic offenses. We already have enough of that in the US.