Thursday, January 05, 2006

Road to Nowhere??

Via Bytes in Brief

"On December 26th, it was announced that Britain would become the first
country in the world where the movements of all vehicles on the roads are
recorded. A new national surveillance system will hold the records for at
least two years. Using a network of cameras that can automatically read
every passing number plate, the plan is to build a huge database of
vehicle movements so that the police and security services can analyze any
journey a driver has made over several years. By next March a central
database installed alongside the Police National Computer in Hendon, north
London, will store the details of 35 million number-plate "reads" per day.
These will include time, date and precise location, with camera sites
monitored by global positioning satellites. Already there are plans to
extend the database by increasing the storage period to five years and by
linking thousands of additional cameras so that details of up to 100
million number plates can be fed each day into the central databank. Civil
libertarians are concerned that the movements of millions of law-abiding
people will soon be routinely recorded and kept on a central computer
database for years. "

The British public, unlike privacy advocate groups, has always supported ubiquitous surveillance, at least in the form of CCTV, where the alternative appeared to be the risk of exposure to crime. Will the killer combo of ID cards and full fledged Big Brother style surveillance of all vehicles, with no incentives in sight but speeding tickets, turn the tide of opinion?

If you do care about privacy, this certainly makes worrying over tosh like RFID in the retail chain look like a minor affair. Although if you combine car tracking for the socially included, with ID cards and RFID-cash tracking for the rest, the prospects of future employment for data miners (not minors) look bright indeed.. Minority Report, which I watched again over Xmas, looks nearer and nearer to truth. How far are we from the Dept of Pre-Crime now?

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