[EPIC_IDOF] Surveillance UK: why this revolution is only the

Richard M. Smith rms at computerbytesman.com
Wed Dec 21 10:00:32 PST 2005



Surveillance UK: why this revolution is only the start
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Published: 22 December 2005

The new national surveillance network for tracking car journeys,
which has
taken more than 25 years to develop, is only the beginning of plans to
monitor the movements of all British citizens. The Home Office
Development Branch in Hertfordshire is already working on ways of
automatically recognising human faces by computer, which many people
see as truly introducing the prospect of Orwellian street surveillance,
where our every move is recorded and stored by machines.

Although the problems of facial recognition by computer are far more
formidable than for car number plates, experts believe it is only a
of time before machines can reliably pull a face out of a crowd of

If the police and security services can show that a national
operation based on recording car movements can protect the public
criminals and terrorists, there will be a strong political will to do
same with street cameras designed to monitor the flow of human traffic.

A major feature of the national surveillance centre for car numbers
is the
ability to trawl through records of previous sightings to build up an
intelligence picture of a vehicle's precise whereabouts on the road

However, the Home Office and police believe that the Big Brother
nature of
the operation can be justified on the basis of the technology's proven
ability to catch criminals. "In simple terms criminals use vehicles.
If you
want to commit a crime, you're going to use a vehicle," said Frank
the Chief Constable of Hertfordshire, who leads the project. " There is
nothing secretive about it and we don't want it to be secret, because we
want people to feel safer, to see that they are protected."

A 13-month pilot scheme between 2003 and 2004 found the performance
of the
police improved dramatically when they had access automatic number plate
recognition (ANPR) cameras. Project Laser 2 involved 23 police forces
specially fitted vans with ANPR cameras linked to a police database.
It led
to a fivefold increase in the arrest rate for frontline officers.

But these mobile units will constitute only a tiny proportion of the
thousands of ANPR cameras that by next year will be feeding more than 35
million number plate "reads" every day into the new national data
centre at
Hendon, north London, the same site as the Police National Computer.

Mr Whiteley, chairman of the ANPR steering committee, said the intention
eventually was to move from the "low thousands" of cameras to the " high

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