Congestion spying

Here’s a strong (inadvertent) argument against congestion charges. From the BBC:

Police are to be given live access to London’s congestion charge cameras – allowing them to track all vehicles entering and leaving the zone.

Anti-terror officers will be exempted from parts of the Data Protection Act to allow them to see the date, time and location of vehicles in real time.

They previously had to apply for access on a case-by-case basis.

The Met will produce an annual report for the Information Commissioner, the government’s data protection watchdog who oversees how material from CCTV cameras is used.

The scheme will also be reviewed in three months’ time after an interim report by Met Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, so the home secretary can be “personally satisfied … that the privacy of individuals is protected”, added Mr McNulty.

That would be the same cabinet minister who’s authorized the change in the first place. The invasions of privacy are going to have to be outrageous and publicly known for her to change back.

The stated justification for the additional powers the police will get is the “enduring vehicle-borne terrorist threat to London,” according to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. Presumably she’s referring the car bombs that didn’t go off, allegedly planted by the doctors whom the police caught without the new power they’re getting. This “threat” will never go away, of course, long after Osama bin Laden has rotted to dust in his grave and nothing’s blown up in a decade.

There’s always mission creep where government intrusions on privacy are concerned. You let them set up cameras for one very specific reason, and the next thing you know, they’re tailing you in your car, without supervision. What is so wretchedly hard about seeking judicial permission for this kind of thing that fewer and fewer law-enforcement agencies in the world have to bother doing it anymore?

Britain is already off the deep end on surveillance, but this makes things worse, and spoils prospects for future implementations of what is, in principle, a useful and even necessary system.

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One response to “Congestion spying

  1. Pingback: Civil liberties and congestion pricing « Good Morning, Economics

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