Sadiq Khan faces legal challenge over traffic camera surveillance

Sadiq Khan faces legal challenge over traffic camera surveillance

Mayor’s decision to give police access to more data described as ‘gargantuan increase of surveillance in London’

London traffic

The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, is facing a legal challenge over his decision to allow the Metropolitan police access to more data from a larger number of traffic cameras across the city.

The Green party London assembly member Siân Berry said it was “terrifying” that the force will have full access to a “huge database” of Automated Number-Plate Recognition (ANPR) data from the expanded ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) in the capital.

Members of the Independent Advisory Group on ANPR have called the plans a “gargantuan increase of surveillance in London” and warned they may have “a disproportionate effect on ethnic minorities communities due to placement of the cameras”.

When he was London mayor, Boris Johnson granted the Met limited access to ANPR cameras in 2014. Khan expanded these powers in May to include the whole of inner London, where 3.8 million people live.

Campaigners say this means the Met will be given access to photographs of roads showing the colour and make of vehicles, and potentially images of the faces of drivers and people walking on the pavement.

They argue that the decision to extend the Met’s powers was illegal because it was granted without proper consultation.

Berry, who is leading the legal challenge with the digital rights organisation Open Rights Group, urged the mayor to reverse his “hasty decision”.

“I am deeply disappointed that the mayor has not listened to repeated warnings that sharing the cameras from the expanded clean air zone with the police was a huge increase in surveillance of Londoners that should not be signed off by his office,” she said.

“I have been telling the mayor since 2019 that sharing this data with the police is wrong and that Londoners must have their say in any decision. With so many awful revelations bringing trust and confidence in our police to an all-time low, Londoners should have been asked if they would trust them with this massive database about their daily movements.”

Campaigners, who are crowdfunding £30,000 to pay for the legal challenge, have sent Khan a letter notifying him that they intend to take action.

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A spokesperson for the mayor of London said they would respond to the letter in due course, adding: “Modern technology has a vital role to play in protecting Londoners and tackling serious crime. The use of traffic cameras for ANPR has been in place since 2015 after being introduced by the previous mayor.”

The Met police did not comment but told Sky News that ANPR images were “extremely unlikely to be of sufficient quality to identify the driver or passengers”. The force also added that Londoners can have “little expectation of privacy” when driving their cars.