The legality of a police Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) database in the UK has been called into question by the Surveillance Camera Commissioner. The National ANPR data centre now holds 22 billion car journeys, he said.
By 2015 it was estimated that the data centre was receiving around 30 million number plate "reads" each day, according to a report by Tony Porter.
The development of the National ANPR Strategy in England and Wales has led to a network of approximately 8,300 cameras connected into to a centralised police database, noted the report.
Each force retains a back office function and retains, in each instance, the obligation of Data Controller relating to that system.
In 2015, the Home Office earmarked £5m to support the development of the National ANPR Service, including cloud-based storage.
The Surveillance Camera Commissioner said in the report: "There is no statutory authority for the creation of the national ANPR database; its creation was never agreed by parliament; and no report on its operation has even been laid before parliament."
Porter noted that civil liberties groups have objected to the creation of a national database of all citizens' vehicle movements, as such a move warrants a specific statutory basis and "clear mechanisms for accountability and governance". Privacy, data protection and human rights concerns must also be properly addressed, he said.
A spokeswoman from civil liberties group Big Brother Watch said: "No justification has ever been made for the change in the use of ANPR technology from a tool used to target suspected vehicles to the enormous national database which now logs all cars driving on UK roads.
"The lack of statutory oversight highlighted by the Surveillance Camera Commissioner's recent report combined with the threat from the police to store the data for up to seven years should be urgently addressed.
"Without a public debate and proper Parliamentary oversight, drivers are none the wiser as to what is happening to their data."
Porter added: "As technology advances, my concern is around the public’s knowledge of what the technology is and how it is used. I believe that the public must be made aware of how advancements in technology can alter the way they are monitored. There needs to be consultation and debate on matters that can severely impact on an individual’s right to privacy." ®