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UK Drivers Private Data Breach Scandal

A security breach in an ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) camera database exposed information about millions of UK new and used car journeys which can be tied to individual vehicle license plates.

ANPR Camera
ANPR Camera

The reported 8,768 active ANPR cameras in the UK work by converting number plates to digital text so they can be cross-checked against national databases. The breach was first discovered by security specialists using a tool that analyses web hosts for potential security flaws.

Data records obtained included license plates, journey times and locations about individual driver trips, these were all accessed after a flaw was discovered in a councils traffic camera database.

David Hartley, assistant chief constable of the South Yorkshire Police, said, ‘It is not an acceptable thing to have occurred.’

Tony Porter, commissioner of the UK’s surveillance camera oversight organization, promised a full investigation. “As chair of the National ANPR Independent Advisory Group, I will be requesting a report into this incident”

ANPR cameras up and down the UK scan billions of number plates a year, generating millions of pounds in fines. In 2018 alone, automatic number plate recognition cameras scanned over 10 billion vehicle licence plates which also included drivers that work within the motor trade sector.

While the police use ANPR cameras to bring criminals to justice, like diving without a valid insurance policy, local councils have adopted the technology to generate revenue from traffic and parking fines, during the last five years councils issued nearly 7 million penalty tickets amounting to around £472million in additional revenue.

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Local councils reported that they use ANPR cameras to issue penalties to motorists of lorries, vans or new and used cars for offences ranging from bus lane and parking contraventions, to turning left or right at prohibited junctions and stopping in junction boxes.

Councillor Martin Tett from the Local Government Association said councils “make no apologies for enforcing the law” with ANPR cameras, and that surplus revenue generated from fines is spent on transport improvements.

Over 99 per cent of parking and bus lane fines are not appealed, demonstrating “the overwhelming majority of people who are ticketed accept that they have broken the rules”.

Privacy campaigners are concerned that the use of ANPR technology is a breach on our privacy. Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, said “there is no clear legal basis” for the UK’s ANPR network, and that it represents “constant monitoring of innocent motorists”.

At the beginning of the year, the Government’s surveillance camera commissioner, Tony Porter, warned that the UK’s ANPR network operates with “limited democratic oversight” and the system “must surely be one of the largest data gatherers of its citizens in the world”