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Police tap into camera network

Date

Christopher Knaus

Surveillance ... point-to-point cameras on Hindmarsh Drive.

Surveillance ... point-to-point cameras on Hindmarsh Drive. Photo: Melissa Adams

Police are using images from the new point-to-point speed camera network to track the movements of Canberrans for crimes unrelated to traffic.

Police have requested images they believed to be linked with ''non-traffic related offences'' six times since the point-to-point cameras first became operational on Hindmarsh Drive in February.

The use of the speed cameras for general criminal surveillance has drawn criticism from civil liberty campaigners, who claim the government has not been transparent about such uses of the technology.

Images from the cameras are stored for 14 days before non-pertinent data is deleted.

The legislation allows police to use those images to track the movements of cars as long as it is ''reasonably necessary for the enforcement of the criminal law''.

That standard of proof does not require a warrant or court order.

But an ACT Policing spokesman said police must make a detailed formal request for an image they believe is linked to a crime by providing the time, place, date, location and vehicle details to the Justice and Community Safety Directorate.

''An example could be that an aggravated robbery occurs in the vicinity of a P2P camera zone, and by witness accounts, it is identified that the vehicle involved in the commission of the offence travelled along the P2P zone,'' the spokesman said. ''In this circumstance, police could request the image of the vehicle to assist in identifying the vehicle,'' he said.

But Civil Liberties Australia director Tim Vines said the government had not been open about the use of speed cameras for more general criminal surveillance.

He said the public must be made aware what standard of proof police are required to show before they were allowed access to the images.

''If information is going to be collected for a general surveillance purpose, then the government should be upfront about it,'' Mr Vines said.

''It needs to be very upfront about the protocols it has in place, the standard of proof it requires, and what that information can then be used for,'' he said.

Police Minister Simon Corbell said the sharing of images with police was consistent with information privacy principles.

Mr Corbell said the issue was the subject of ''detailed scrutiny'' when the legislation governing the cameras was passed, and was extensively canvassed in public debate.

The point-to-point speed camera network will continue to expand over the next 12 months.

The government is currently in the procurement phase for another set of cameras on Athllon Drive in Canberra's south.

Those cameras are expected to be built by June next year, and should become operational by August.

The forward design study suggested a further eight potential sites for point-to-point technology, including stretches along Gungahlin Drive, William Hovell Drive, Parkes Way, Tuggeranong Parkway and Ginninderra Drive.

Mr Vines described the use of the cameras for broader car tracking as a ''classic case of scope creep'' likely to become more common.

51 comments

  • If the images can help solve a crime and put a criminal in jail then why are the civil libertarians so up in arms? I couldn't care less if my car is photographed on Hindmarsh Drive.

    Commenter
    farnarkler
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    November 21, 2012, 7:58AM
    • Exactly - they are welcome to photograph my car a 100 times a day if it helps with the detection and conviction of criminals. What is the downside for the rest of us?

      Commenter
      JD
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      November 21, 2012, 8:31AM
    • Because we don't generally have a problem with police catching criminals. The huge problem we have stems from judiciary and lenient sentences, or worse no sentences and thrown out of court. If we're serious about making streets safer, then we need a new judiciary, mandatory sentencing and prisons that use their labour base for the good of the community. Otherwise, the cameras will just waste money "helping" the poor police to catch the same criminals over and over again.

      Commenter
      Vlax
      Location
      G.
      Date and time
      November 21, 2012, 8:56AM
    • But of the crimes solved, which ones could not have been solved without these extra traffic "safety" cameras?

      Commenter
      Outraged of Palmerston
      Date and time
      November 21, 2012, 9:07AM
    • why should you worry about your car being photographed if you have done nothing wrong?
      These Civ Libs have a gripe about everything doesn't matter what it is, just ignore them.

      Commenter
      westy
      Location
      canberra
      Date and time
      November 21, 2012, 1:15PM
    • @ westy

      You are seriously uninformed.

      Commenter
      yumq
      Location
      cbr
      Date and time
      November 21, 2012, 1:59PM
  • Like we didn't see this coming. This is a text book example of why civil liberty campaigners usually oppose even small, seemingly innocent attempts by governments to gather data on the citizenry. It is because inevitably these powers will be steadily and irreversibly expanded. Sure, in this case the police may always have had the authority to request images (without a warrant !) but they were billed as "speed cameras" and are now being used for other purposes.

    Commenter
    Trevor
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    November 21, 2012, 8:25AM
    • Trevor you are right on the money. Why do the masses have trouble comprehending such a simple concept?

      Commenter
      Irene
      Date and time
      November 21, 2012, 10:03AM
    • Totes. (So I heard someone say once.)

      There are two problems - the first is exactly as stated by Trevor. We saw it in Sydney with the CCTV cameras installed EXCLUSIVELY for the APAC gathering. They were to be removed after the conference but amazingly they weren't and have since been expanded. Quelle suprise.

      The second problem is related to the assurance given about the rigour attached to requesting such images. For all the claims of due process, the simple fact is that in practice, requests like this are granted as a matter of routine.

      That said, I am not against the idea as a whole but FAR more openness is required. What should happen is that any time a request is received, the request should be scrutinised closely. I don't mean at the time, I mean that if a cop requests footage and receives that footage then some time later (a month, once a year, etc...) that request and the decision will be reviewed to determine a.) if the police officer was right to request the information and b.) if the person who approved the request was correct in doing so.

      If not, there should be genuine disciplinary action.

      The message is that as citizens, we give the police the power to invade our privacy from time-to-time so as to keep us safe but we take abuse of that power VERY, VERY seriously.

      Well, at least I do.

      Commenter
      RG
      Date and time
      November 21, 2012, 12:51PM
    • This is classic 'mission creep' and Simon Corbell has seriously failed in his duty to the public. What's to stop the 'detailed scrutiny' being watered down at some point in the near future? All it takes is one high-profile event and politicians will be falling over themselves to relax the rules. Happens every time.

      People always want police to catch criminals but the problem with giving ever increasing powers to police is that the power is easily abused. Plus, there is almost always an inevitable future change in the law or governance rules that allows the police to exploit surveillance technology to the general detriment of the public.

      The police never say no to additional powers. I think the public should always be sceptical with these issues and the default answer to any such requests should always be a qualified NO. Incidentally, nationally and internationally, these kind of surveillance infringements on civil liberties are almost always implemented by a Labor government.

      Commenter
      yumq
      Location
      CBR
      Date and time
      November 21, 2012, 1:26PM

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