SMILE!….The British, who have already blanketed their country with closed circuit TV cameras, are now going a step further. Their latest plan is to link all those cameras to software that can read license plates, use it to track every car in the country at all times, and hold the results in a gigantic database that will tell police where, when, and with whom you’ve been driving your car. The Independent has the story:

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.

I had several immediate reactions to this story:

  • The Independent mildly suggests that a few civil liberties nutbags might be concerned about this, but they don’t even bother quoting anyone. The British seem to be surprisingly unconcerned about this.

  • And why should they be concerned? It’s only going to be used to catch crooks and terrorists, right? Not quite: “The national data centre will also check whether each vehicle is lawfully licensed, insured and has a valid MoT test certificate.” I think it’s fairly easy to imagine a bit more mission creep the next time some MP gets a bright idea for how to use all this shiny new data.

  • Do you really believe that police won’t use this for random fishing expeditions against people they just don’t like? Do you also believe in Santa Claus?

  • On the other hand, unlike our domestic spying, at least this is out in the open, voted on by parliament and everything. Rule of law, don’t you know.

Hell, maybe David Brin is right. Perhaps we should just implant GPS chips in everyone’s brains at birth and be done with it.