In an effort to meet targets and raise revenue, the UK Police are using the automatic number plate recognition database designed for catching criminals and terrorists to meet their financial goals and quotas.
Police whistleblowers also claim that intelligence stored on the national Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) database is “at least 30 per cent inaccurate”, which has led to the wrongful arrest of innocent motorists and the seizure of their cars.
The revelations highlight growing concerns about a burgeoning target culture among enforcement agencies and local authorities seeking to bolster figures and income with so-called soft arrests and fines on otherwise law-abiding members of the public.
ANPR was originally used in counter-terrorism operations in Northern Ireland. However, since the late 1990s it has been introduced on Britain’s roads. A network of static and mobile cameras surrounds major cities and monitors motorways and main roads. Each camera can capture over 3,500 images of licence plates and drivers an hour. The pictures are cross-referenced with police intelligence and data from DVLA and insurance firms to generate “hits” which are then sent to police.
The police themselves are encouraging such behavior by holding contests, which has led to the unethical behavior by the police. This includes scouring the databases to find something on a driver and harassing motorist until they become angry and belligerent, at which point the police arrest them for public order offenses.
Whistleblowers also expressed concern that managers are “engineering” arrests to meet targets. Officers have been sent to re-arrest drivers fined for driving without insurance. Before cars can be released from the pound the driver has to apply for insurance. “[Officers were] checking with insurers if Mr Smith had declared his recent penalty,” said one officer. “If the answer was ‘no’ they arrested him for obtaining insurance fraudulently.”
But not all police officers are taking part in this questionable behavior.
Hertfordshire officers say they have reported concerns to senior managers but believe they are being ignored, as good performance targets and revenue earned from ANPR are too important.
Other complaints from citizens include the use of CCTV cameras for parking offenses, over zealous enforcement of wheelie-bin etiquette, and unreasonably harsh littering fines.
Police were called to Millennial Tech Magnet Middle School in San Diego after the vice principal concluded that a student brought a bomb to school as a science project. The vice principal saw the student showing the project to another student and overreacted. The student’s project was meant to be a type of motion detector.
Luque said the project was made of an empty half-liter Gatorade bottle with some wires and other electrical components attached. There was no substance inside.
When police and the Metro Arson Strike Team responded, they also found electrical components in the student’s backpack, Luque said. After talking to the student, it was decided about 1 p.m. to evacuate the school as a precaution while the item was examined. Students were escorted to a nearby playing field, and parents were called and told they could come pick up their children.
A MAST robot took pictures of the device and X-rays were evaluated. About 3 p.m., the device was determined to be harmless, Luque said.
Why did it take all day, with x-rays from a robot to determine it was harmless? The student and the parents were very cooperative. Can the Strike Team not understand basic electronics? If they can’t, how did they get on the Strike Team?
Police also went to the student’s home and found nothing, however, the student and his parents have been advised to seek counseling because he violated school policies. Presumably, these violations include the independent thought process. The article, nor the school, specifies which policy was violated.
Instead of calling the authorities and overreacting, the vice principal should have asked to see the project and the student in the office. This way, the vice principal could ascertain whether or not there was a real threat. Instead, he chose the panic route and disrupted everyone’s lives. Another tip would be not to put the school on lockdown when you suspect that a bomb is in the building. You evacuate everyone from the building.
The only people in this story that need counseling are the vice principal and the Strike Team. This school is a tech school and as such, the vice principal should have some knowledge of electronics. He could gain valuable information just by walking in the hallways and talking to students. If he doesn’t understand these basics, then he shouldn’t be allowed to retain his position.
The school should also pay for any counseling that the family needs because it was their fault that the family has been traumatized.
Since the student is in a magnet tech school, he should immediately go home and build everything in this book. Just don’t bring it to school. That way, his imagination continues to be encouraged outside of the box called school.
At the Highlands campus of White Plains Middle School in New York, students are now using finger scans in order to receive a school lunch. Tapped as a way to make school lunch lines move faster, many parents and privacy advocates are worried about the students’ identities.
“People were a little nervous, but they’re not in the cafeteria when we are trying to serve 373 students at a time — to get them all seated, fed and out for recess especially with the kinds of things they were using before,” the principal, Diana Knight, said.
In the end, only five of the more than 1,000 students opted out, and the family of one cited germs, not privacy abuses, as a concern, Knight said.
The rest of the students can now press a forefinger to an image pad to pay for their food. The older methods, swiping a debit card or entering a personal identification number, or PIN, also remain available.
The school is using technology from School-Link Technologies, which claim a fingerprint can’t be made of the information because the data is saved as a set of numbers. It remains to be seen as to whether the information can be reverse engineered to get the fingerprint.
Michigan and Iowa currently have laws prohibiting the use of biometrics among school students unless ordered to do so by a court of law. The United Kingdom currently has several schools using biometrics for lunches as well as in the library and for registration. The EU is using it to identify refugees. Hong Kong, however, has deemed the use of biometrics on students as too invasive and scrapped their program several years ago.
The New York Civil Liberties Union for the Lower Hudson Valley and the EFF question the use of such technology as a means of softening up children for eventual, ubiquitous use of biometrics as surveillance tools.
“It’s a new technology so people are a little bit uncertain about it,” she said. “But I think as it becomes more widely used — and they see that some of what they’re concerned about isn’t coming to be regarding privacy and how the finger scans are used — I think people will become a lot more comfortable with it.”
And this is precisely the point. If you force people to use these technologies when they are small and cannot understand the implications of said technologies, they will think it’s cool and not understand why others are so concerned. Biometric identification will become widespread, but only because it will become required, forcing those who wish to opt-out, no option at all.
Members of the Chaos Computer Club have been able to clone the digital security ID cards that some German airports use and then used them to access all airport areas [German] [English]. They used an RFID reader that cost less than €200 to scan a valid card. The scanner was then able to emulate the card.
Officials at the Hamburg airport admit that this is a vulnerability, but they are quick to point out that cards are not the only means of security at the airport. This, however, still does not address the problem. The system dates from 1992, which is definitely out of date, and was meant for access to low-risk places, such as schools and supermarkets, yet airport officials seem to not be taking the issue seriously.
Given that the cards allow persons to roam secure areas at the airport, they should be very concerned. The cards could allow a person to gain access to the cargo hold of an airplane. One could easily plant a bomb in that area with no one the wiser.