ANPR Cams - Britain's Roadside Big Brother

ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras are being used to create a "24x7 national vehicle movement database" that will log the movement of every vehicle on the United Kingdom's roads. Your every move will be retained in the system for two years.


(ANPR mobile unit)

According to an article in The Register, the system will go live in April of next year and will process 50 million number plates per day by year's end. ANPR camera systems are to be placed every 400 yards along motorways.

Besides "denying criminals the use of the roads", the system will also link to other databases to identify vehicles that are unregistered and untaxed. The system will be used in the war on terror; UK police have lobbied for detention periods of up to 90 days without charges for terror suspects. Once police have a tip or a suspect in custody, they can sift records of vehicle movement along with everything else.

This technology was predicted sixty years ago by Robert Heinlein in his 1941 novel Methuselah's Children. The novel takes place in a near-future Earth society that is very closely regulated. The individual's right to privacy typically means little compared to the right of society to take what it needs from citizens. For example, the movement of every vehicle on the road is monitored by roadside cameras, just like it will be in Britain. Some individuals, however, use other technology to maintain their privacy.

...The car slid up the ramp, waited until the traffic control signaled a predicted break in traffic, then joined the high-speed northbound stream. Mary Risling settled back for a little nap...

She woke just before the signal from the car which would have called her... She signaled the traffic control ahead; it cut her out of the stream of vehicles and reduced the speed of her car, then rang the alarm which notified her to resume local control. Before doing so she fumbled in the storage compartment on the instrument board and fumbled, apparently purposelessly.

But the registration number which the traffic control automatically photographed as she left the controlway was not the number in which the car was registered.
(Read more about Robert Heinlein's traffic control camera)

Take a look at IP Cameras - Larry Niven's Webeye? for another science-fictional surveillance technology that seems to have arrived. Or, read more about the vehicle movement database and the ANPR system.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/16/2005)

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