A privacy campaign group and a politician have mounted a legal challenge to London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s decision to provide the Met Police with larger access to number plate recognition cameras in the British capital.
Police previously had access only to ‘reads’ (number plate identifications) from Automated Number-Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras and the geographical accessibility was confined to central London.
Now the Mayor of London has given police access to cameras monitoring the expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), thereby giving the sleuths more data from a wider range of cameras, and the area is extended to the entire inner London.
Met Police defended the move saying it would help the force protect the public and avoid errors in identifying vehicles.
However, privacy and free online speech campaigner Open Rights Group and London Assembly member Sian Berry have challenged the mayor’s decision saying it went against the principles of privacy.
They argue that a record of a vehicle’s journey is an intimate insight into a driver or passenger’s movements.
According to them, an ANPR camera also takes pictures, including a “front of vehicle photo”, recording everything around it.
“It’s kind of terrifying”, Berry said as Khan’s decision meant that police could access deeply personal data.
“We do know that there have been police disciplined and expelled for stalking their ex-partners using data that the police hold,” she told Sky News.
“When there aren’t proper internal controls, it really increases the risk of that kind of harm,” she said.
The Group and Berry have written to the mayor claiming the decision, taken without “proper consultations”, was illegal.
“With a stroke of a pen, Sadiq Khan has taken a decision that violates the basic privacy rights of millions of Londoners,” Group executive director Jim Killock told Sky News.
“Every single car, driver and pedestrian in Greater London will be subject to surveillance by the Metropolitan Police, yet Londoners have had no say in this,” Killock said.
The privacy group also said the ULEZ camera network will cover all of London from August 2023 and urged the mayor to hold a full-scale consultation on the measure.