Workplace Parking Levy to use ANPR

Tagged as: anpr cctv ncclols nottingham_city_council police repression science_and_technology surveillance worplace_parking_levy
Neighbourhoods: nottingham

Andy at NCCLOLs has found out that the Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) will be enforced using a vehicle equipped with Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR). This will drive into the car parks of all workplaces in Nottingham City Centre recording the registrations of all the vehicles parked there, 8 times in every 28 days. This data will then be analysed to work out which vehicles are normally parked in those locations. Not content with surveilling us in every public space the Council now want to start following our cars as well!

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The WPL is a state measure attempting to reduce carbon emissions by people commuting in their cars by taxing employers based on the number of parking spaces set aside for employees. The tax is then reinvested in alternatives such as public transport. However, because no one trusts big business not to engage in a little creative accounting over which spaces are for regular users of their car parks and which are for deliveries/visitors, etc the Council has come up with an enforcement strategy - the ANPR equipped vehicle which can use data collected over time to work out which are the regular users and which aren't.

Of course, there are major privacy implications to this. It means that every driver parking in the car park of a Nottingham business could have their whereabouts recorded by the Council and any patterns in their behaviour will be analysed. It's not clear who will have access to that data and whether it will be possible to use it for functions other than the intended one. As usual, we can expect function creep. Andy has pointed out that police and security agencies may well be interested in adding this information to their databases.

Because disabled parking has special status under the WPL, people parking in disabled parking will be categorised separately under the scheme. This raises the fear that the Council is collecting information about drivers' disabled statuses covertly.

ANPR is no stranger to controversy. The police already use a network of ANPR cameras on main roads, ports and petrol station forecourts to read 50 million numberplates a day (expected to be upgraded to 100 million within a few years). The location of the majority of the cameras is secret. The data is held on databases for 2 years (police wanted it to be 5 but the Information Comissioner refused) and is used for intelligence and solving crimes. Data mining is used to build up patterns of vehicle journeys.

The ANPR has been used to target people whose cars have been spotted near political demonstrations for harassment by stop and search. John Catt, whose car was spotted near a Smash EDO demo in Brighton, was later stopped for a vehicle search under s44 of the Terrorism Act in London. He was threatened with arrest if he did not answer police questions.

In the US, ANPR use has led to car confiscations for misdemeanours such as 'frequenting a bawdy place'. Police are equipped with hand held cameras which are often used for the purpose of 'revenue generation'. People owing paking fines get their cars seized and held for ransom until they pay up. This is something not unheard of in the UK as well, where the police have used the cameras to demand all manner of fines from drivers snapped drinking water, talking on their phone or breaking the speed limit. Nottingham City Council are not averse to making a bit of cash out of minor misdemeanours such as dropping fag butts in the Market Square. Can we be sure that they won't turn this latest surveillance scheme into an extortion racket too?

This seems to be another example of high technology being used inappropriately and expanding centralised control over everyday life in the process. Like using retina scanning for registration in schools (something that Nottingham City Council is also keen on) it is slowly making everywhere more and more like a prison, where everything is monitored and no one is free.

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