It has been reported that Scottish police have compiled a huge database of motorists numbering some 850 million.
This figure also comes with the news that despite the police stating that such records logged through the Automatic Number Plate Recognition Network (ANPR) would only be kept for 2 years, the database holds records from 2009.
In 2015 some 570,000 vehicles were photographed in Scotland and although it is the number plate that is main focus of the ANPR it is understood that many motorists can be clearly seen on the pictures.
It is of interest to note that there is no law regulating the use of ANPR technology in Scotland.
The Home Office has issued national standards for the UK which states that:”records must be deleted no later that two years after their initial capture” unless required for criminal investigations.
These new figures have been made public following a Freedom of Information Request made by the Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes.
Alison McInnes said: “I find it disturbing the national force is now in possession of 850million snapshots of people’s journeys from the last seven years.
“ANPR cameras can be useful in locating stolen vehicles and identifying uninsured motorists but we’ve not been given any evidence to show just how effective they are at doing that.
“The overwhelming majority of these 850 million snapshots will belong to entirely innocent motorists and it is surely not proportionate or necessary to keep these for years on end.”
Ms Mcinnes also stated that the SNP had to justify how Police Scotland has been able to amass such a large amount of intelligence without and justification, clear statutory basis or a parliamentary debate.
Tony Porter, the UK’s independent CCTV Commissioner, has said Britain’s ANPR systems amount to “one of the largest data gatherers of its citizens’ data in the world” and warned the practice might be illegal.
Police say this allows them to track terrorists and other criminals in real time as they move around the country.
Chief Executive of Big Brother Watch, Renate Samson stated that Police Scotland had to prove that the “staggering” database was being regularly used to solve crimes.
Ms Samson also stated: “My understanding was that any such data would only be retained for two years so they must prove they are getting real benefit from these records.
“There need to be some serious questions answered about the ANPR database and the number of mostly innocent people that are being photographed who are possibly not even aware of what is happening.”
Superintendent Jim Leslie of Police Scotland’s Operational Support Division, said: “ANPR is a very useful tool in tacking criminality by serious and organised groups and terrorists, as well as in dealing with motoring offences, and a number of significant criminal prosecutions have been secured with evidence gained from using this technology.
“Data from ANPR is only generally available to Police Scotland officers for 90 days, and if required after this period a special case has to be made and approval given by an officer holding the rank of Superintendent or above.”
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