I am unsure whether this was ever actually introduced in legislation or whether it has just happened via 'technology creep' under Labour – if so then it certainly should NOT have been allowed!
As any driver will know, virtually every A-road and motorway in the UK is now covered by a very generous number of ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras.
ANPR cameras were originally introduced as a simple, mobile, way for the police to identify tax / MOT / insurance 'dodgers' – to which I have no objection at all. However, there are now thousands (more likely tens of thousands) of these cameras at fixed installations throughout the country, whose primary purpose is clearly nothing to do with catching the aforementioned 'heinous criminals(???)' .
What is NOT generally publicised is that all of these cameras are linked back to a central database and, every time a car passes one of them, details of the date, time and location are logged (possibly with a photo of the front-seat occupants, but I have no definite knowledge of this). This effectively means that the police / HMG / anyone else with access to the system can track the location and movements of every car in the country and, by extrapolation, the movements of their owners.
This level of monitoring clearly has nothing whatever to do with 'tax dodgers' and can only have been set up with the explicit intention of being able to track the entire population's movements. No doubt introduced at the behest of the Police as part of the 'war on terror' – which was the previous Government's excuse for every piece of new legislation that reduced our privacy.
Why is this idea important?
This use of technology is clearly in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which states 'Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence'.
It also de facto contravenes Article 17 :- 'Nothing in this Convention may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or perform any act aimed at the destruction on any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein'
Regardless of its Human Rights implications, the very fact that any Government should see fit to keep track of it's citizens' movements 24x7x365, even on the poor grounds of 'prevention of terrorism', is anathema to the very principles on which a 'free society' is built. As I think Vince Cable said recently : "'1984' was intended as a warning not an instruction manual'"
As a fringe benefit: the running costs of a nationwide network of tens of thousands of cameras, the associated comms networks and back-office technology must be significant so there is also an opportunity here for removing further unnecessary public expenditure.