Britain to Deploy Roadside 'Big Brother' System

ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras are being used to create a "24x7 national vehicle movement database" that will log the movement of every vehicle on the United Kingdom's roads. Your every move will be retained in the system for two years.

According to an article in The Register, the system will go live in April of next year and will process 50 million number plates per day by year's end. ANPR camera systems are to be placed every 400 yards along motorways.


(ANPR mobile unit)

Besides "denying criminals the use of the roads", the system will also link to other databases to identify vehicles that are unregistered and untaxed. The system will be used in the war on terror; UK police have lobbied for detention periods of up to 90 days without charges for terror suspects. Once police have a tip or a suspect in custody, they can sift records of vehicle movement along with everything else.

This technology was predicted sixty years ago by Robert Heinlein in his 1941 novel Methuselah's Children. The novel takes place in a near-future Earth society that is very closely regulated. The individual's right to privacy typically means little compared to the right of society to take what it needs from citizens. For example, the movement of every vehicle on the road is monitored by roadside cameras, just like it will be in Britain. Some individuals, however, use other technology to maintain their privacy.

The car waited for a break in the traffic, then dived into the high-speed stream and hurried north. Mary settled back for a nap.

When its setting was about to run out, the car beeped for instructions; Mary woke up and glanced out. Lake Michigan was a darker band of darkness on her right. She signaled traffic control to let her enter the local traffic lane; it sorted out her car and placed her there, then let her resume manual control. She fumbled in the glove compartment.

The license number which traffic control automatically photographed as she left the controlways was not the number the car had been wearing.
(Read more about Robert Heinlein's traffic control camera)

Take a look at IP Cameras - Larry Niven's Webeye? and Micro Spacecraft To Explore Planets for more science-fictional surveillance technologies that seem to have arrived. Read more about the vehicle movement database and the ANPR system.

(This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission from Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction.)