Roadside cameras took photos of drivers for five years, without legal grounds: NRC

Police cameras situated along Dutch motorways have for the last five years photographed drivers and their passengers without  legal justification, the NRC reported on Wednesday.

Based on an internal police memo, the paper claimed the photographs were used to aid criminal investigations, even though they had been taken without official permission.

The cameras involved are part of the Automatic Plate Recognition system (ANPR) comprising some 300 cameras and which is meant to help check, for instance, for unpaid fines. A fifth of the cameras are more sophisticated and can also render clear pictures of drivers and passengers.

The unauthorised practice was halted on June 1 this year. A police spokesman told the paper the only legal justification for using the cameras to photograph drivers was ‘in order to carry out structural observation’.

The public prosecution office told the NRC the photographs had only been used ‘in a small number of cases’.

No-one has said how many of the illegally obtained photographs are still stored in the police system, but since the 55 cameras are capable of taking 350,000 photographs a day the number is likely to be considerable. Photos of the number plates can be kept for 28 days.

The tax office, the public prosecution office and transport ministry’s traffic department are among the official bodies which also use ANPR cameras, as do some private companies.

Police used the ANPR system last month to trace the car used by the two men suspected of murdering crime reporter Peter R de Vries.

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