Congestion Charge Privacy

Saturday, October 6th, 2007. 1:11pm

I wrote the below to Kevin Wilkins (County Councillor and Police Authority member with a specialisation in Cambridge City) and Olive Main, Independent Member of the Police Authority in October 2007.

A congestion charge system for Cambridge is being proposed.

The plans released in local papers involve cameras throughout Cambridge, and on vans which will drive around the city. If I drive the state will know what time I leave home and when I get back, they will know who I visit, how often and for how long. There is a potential, if the data collected is misused for there to be a massive invasion of my privacy.

In London the Police have this year requested unlimited access to all the data collected by the congestion charge camera network there. While I think there should be access when required eg. to investigate a serious crime, I oppose the “trawling” of such data. I would like to see access to information on my movements protected by similar procedures as those which prevent the police from searching my home without good reason. The below shows what has happened in London:

“Damian Hockney who sits on the Metropolitan Police Authority and is a London Assembly Member for the One London Party said “exempting the police from legislation protecting us from abuse of data is the wrong way to go. Vast banks of data handed over to the authorities will inevitably be trawled for other surveillance purposes in order to make the effort financially worthwhile.

Mr Hockney warned “when anti-terror laws are used to harass a heckler at a party conference or someone reading a leaflet in central London, we cannot be complacent.”

Update I drew the attention of Paul Cook, Cambridgeshire’s Head of Transport Policy and Strategy to my privacy concerns regarding the Cambridge Congestion charte at the East Area Committee meeting on 28/2/2008, he claimed there were planned safeguards that Cambridge was legally obliged to incorporate in its scheme but was unable to elaborate. I asked if all data could be deleted at the end of every week for example, he thought that with the exception of non-payers that was a possibility, though I am not too convinced it is a realistic possibility.

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