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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Dangerous Driving in the UK

Author: Mark Dixon
Thursday, December 22, 2005
2:59 pm

I used to think that driving in the UK was dangerous enough (you know, driving on the left side of the road while trying to juggle a stick shift and cell phone).

Today, both Bruce Schneier and Kim Cameron provide insightful comments on the the UK plan to monitor every car journey: “Britain is to become the first country in the world where the movements of all vehicles on the roads are recorded. A new national surveillance system will hold the records for at least two years.”

I first read George Orwell’s 1984 in 1968 when I was 15 years old. I was frankly terrified at the prospect of “Big Brother,” but dismissed the concept as fantasy. Now, almost 40 years later, I find it sad that we are abusing the fanstastic technology in our world to progress, step by step, towards Orwell’s prophetic vision.



3 Responses to “Dangerous Driving in the UK”

    Hi Mark; well, they didn’t quite manage it by 1984, but in fact a lot of vehicle movements are already automatically monitored and recorded on UK roads. For example, the “Congestion Charge” system for central London records vehicle licence numbers so that you can be charged for driving into the city.

    On a much wider scale, the Trafficmaster system provides information to motorists about traffic flow on major roads, motorways and so on. It has an extensive network of cameras which are also capable of licence plate recognition. Trafficmaster is a commercial system, though, and I was told about five years ago by one of the national breakdown organisations that the operators of Trafficmaster deliberately designed the system <em>not</em> to store the full number. It stores enough to enable a ‘probability-weighted’ analysis of traffic conditions, but not enough to tie a specific vehicle to a specific time and place.

    Intrusive as this is, let’s not forget that some US rental companies use GPS data from their cars to penalise customers for speeding, without any involvement of law enforcement…

    Comment by Robin Wilton on December 23, 2005 at 6:44 am

    Hi Robin:

    Thanks for your comments and insight. The examples you gave are probably not too onerous. It is the potential for abuse that scares me.


    Comment by Mark Dixon on December 23, 2005 at 6:49 am

    I will be avioding detection by using my Bicycle;-)

    However I do find the prospect of moving to be continuously monitored by government without a proper grown up debate quite horrible.

    Comment by Chris Gerhard on December 23, 2005 at 11:13 am

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