Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Good news on ANPR

When the police first started deploying automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology, I and others raised concerns about its use and potential abuse. Even at the limited trial stage, it seemed to raise significant privacy issues - police were basically databasing the movements of innocent people with no probable cause, and had declared that they had no intention of consulting the Privacy Commissioner about it. The good news is that according to Tech Liberty the police have now reversed this position, and will no longer be retaining ANPR data.

And it gets better: they have also apparently reversed their position on whether a warrant is required to track people using ANPR:

Police considers that with so few cameras, the technology cannot be used to "track" vehicles. In any event, Police cannot track vehicles other than in accordance with the Search & Surveillance Act 2012.

(The Search & Surveillance Act requires a search warrant for any use of a "tracking device", which is defined tautologically as "a device that may be used to help ascertain, by electronic or other means ... the location of a thing or a person". Which would seem on the face of it to include ANPR).

Of course, the police have given out contradictory information on this topic before, so there's some reason for suspicion. But at face value, this is excellent news, and a step away from a British-style surveillance state.