More United Kigndom IP Communications Stories
November 15, 2011
Imagine that you are on an episode of Taxi Cab Confessions, except that all of your words and actions are being monitored by police, not producers of HBO.
This is the plan set forth by Oxford, England's City Council, which has passed a statute demanding that its 600-plus cabs install CCTV cameras and microphones to record conversations and actions that may be deemed criminal.
The council has said that the move is intended to ensure the safety of taxi drivers and passengers as well as to settle fare disputes between parties. An Oxford city council spokeswoman told The Mirror that surveillance video can only be viewed as part of a specific investigation into an incident, adding that the risk of intruding on personal privacy is mitigated by the interest in public safety.
As one can imagine, the news has set off cries from privacy watchdogs around the nation, including Big Brother Watch, which said that the council failed to provide any specific figures to justify the move.
"This is a staggering invasion of privacy, being done with no evidence, no consultation and a total disregard for civil liberties," the group noted in a recent blog post. "Big Brother now has big ears, and they are eavesdropping on your conversations with absolutely no justification."
The post also points out that the decision defies the CCTV code of practice set forth by the Information Commissioner’s Office, which noted that CCTV should not be used to monitor public conversations, as the practice is "highly intrusive and unlikely to be justified."
All that said, it looks like the city council is moving forward with the plan. Previously registered cabs can wait to install the equipment until April of 2015, but taxis licensed for the first time must be ready to monitor starting in April of 2012.
All recordings will be kept on file for 28 days in case authorities need to use the footage as part of an investigation. Big Brother Watch has openly questioned whether the council has the legal authority to make the move, so we probably haven't heard the last of this story.
Beecher Tuttle is a TMCnet contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Rich Steeves