Traffic safety or surveillance?

Any road user in the UK will know about the hordes of traffic cameras all over the country. These wonderful things are supposed to be there to prevent people from speeding – basically they are set up to trigger if you go past at a speed that is above the limit for that stretch of road. If you speed past one, it takes your photo and you get fine & penalty points through the post.

I am not going to use this post to complain about how they don’t actually prevent speeding and are little more than income generation for the local council. That is a rant for another day.

This rant is about the nature of the cameras themselves.

The idea as sold to the population is that this is not “surveillance” of the public (Thor knows we have enough CCTV for that) and photographs of vehicles would only be taken if they exceeded a certain speed (generally the speed limit +10%). However, a comical item on the BBC seems to show a difference.

Leaving aside the whining, simpsonesque “wont anybody think of the children” rant, the concern I have is why on Earth did this camera take a picture of a vehicle that wasn’t speeding? Why was a speed camera recording images of a non-speeding vehicle so the police could dream up other charges?

Welcome to 1984… (again)

10 thoughts on “Traffic safety or surveillance?

  1. We have those cameras all over the place in the states. If we build cameras, we don’t have to pay as many cops to be on the streets. It’s a pretty simple concept. I wonder why that camera snapped that photo on the BBC if the vehicle wasn’t speeding… Maybe it just takes intermittent photos that are otherwise deleted unless someone flags them beforehand?

    It is a big deal, though? Cell phones and RFID tags (such as ones in car keys, credit cards, cars) are essentially GPS devices, that can be an invasion of privacy…

  2. The concern I have about speed cameras taking “intermittent shots” or what ever it is they are doing to have got this picture, is the sheer dishonesty about the whole system.

    Speed cameras were brought in on legislation which enabled them to take photographs of people who had broken the law. Although it was suspected at the time, it was strenuously denied that these cameras would be used to look for other crimes.

    This strikes me a perfect example of the camera being used in a non-regulatory way to find other crimes.

    I wonder what the RIPA justification was.

  3. RIPA can justify anything……..

    The funniest thing about this is that the picture is only in the public domain because an officer obviously gave it to the BBC and the BBC put it on their site.

    So the person whose moon should have gone unnoticed by anything except a non-sentient camera (that wasn’t even supposed to be triggered, if the car wasn’t speeding) ends up mooning on the internet, and the BBC shows it with some hypocritical concern about the effect on kids. As if anyone would have seen it without the BBC and the employee who sent it to them.

  4. There could be an element of entrapment here. Would the gentleman have bared his buttocks if there were no camera there? It’s Cramlington, so we can’t be certain.

  5. RIPA can justify anything……..

    Well, sort of. <slight pedantry>RIPA is a regulatory framework so it is really a case of people justifying their actions in accordance with RIPA</slight pedantry>.

    A RIPA authorisation to conduct surveillance is normally quite tightly worded – it has to specify a purpose of the investigation for example. I would love to see what the criteria for using traffic cameras to detect non-traffic crimes was.

    As to the “think of the children” issue – it really is ludicrous to suggest it would have “offended” people or corrupted children. What century are we living in?

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  9. This does not surprise me. Since these security cameras are getting smaller and cheaper, we will see more and more of these cameras deployed. Just check out and you can see how sophisticated these surveaillance cameras have gotten. The states will be like the UK sooner than later……. 😆

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