A few years ago, I thought of an idea for a futuristic short story, in which the government tracks the location of every car in the country by means of the GPS receiver installed in the car that transmits its own position to a central tracking facility — and possibly other information, such as speed, seatbelt status, and maybe even audio from a microphone secreted in the car — maybe even video showing who’s in the car. I pictured a control center with a huge electronic map, allowing “whoever” to zoom in on roads, pick out individual cars, clicking on a car and listening to the conversation inside it. Of course, they could always search for a particular individual’s car based on DMV data and find out where that person’s car was.
I never wrote the story. But it is becoming reality much quicker than I thought. In Britain. And it won’t use GPS receivers, but cameras with license-plate readers, so there’s really no way a creative driver could disable it. (And it doesn’t have the audio-bug feature — not yet, anyway.)
And of course, it’s being introduced in the name of “crime control.” After all, if you watch everybody all the time, you must be watching all the criminals, too — right?
From 2006 Britain will be the first country where every journey by every car will be monitored
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Published: 22 December 2005
Britain is to become the first country in the world where the movements of all vehicles on the roads are recorded. A new national surveillance system will hold the records for at least two years.
Using a network of cameras that can automatically read every passing number plate, the plan is to build a huge database of vehicle movements so that the police and security services can analyse any journey a driver has made over several years.
The network will incorporate thousands of existing CCTV cameras which are being converted to read number plates automatically night and day to provide 24/7 coverage of all motorways and main roads, as well as towns, cities, ports and petrol-station forecourts.
By next March a central database installed alongside the Police National Computer in Hendon, north London, will store the details of 35 million number-plate “reads” per day. These will include time, date and precise location, with camera sites monitored by global positioning satellites.
Already there are plans to extend the database by increasing the storage period to five years and by linking thousands of additional cameras so that details of up to 100 million number plates can be fed each day into the central databank.
They don’t even have it yet, and they’re already planning to expand it! Maybe they’ll never delete anything…
Senior police officers have described the surveillance network as possibly the biggest advance in the technology of crime detection and prevention since the introduction of DNA fingerprinting.
But others concerned about civil liberties will be worried that the movements of millions of law-abiding people will soon be routinely recorded and kept on a central computer database for years.
Not like anyone cares about those weirdos who are “concerned about civil liberties” … those extremists…
This is bad. Very, very bad.