London, Apr.21 : Authorities in the United States and other enforcement agencies across the world are reportedly now in a position to monitor routine journeys of millions of British motorists thanks to new anti-terrorism rules introduced by British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. According to The Telegraph, this foreign surveillance-related revelation has angered MPs and civil liberties groups. n Sunday, they accused Smith of being secretive about plans to export pictures.
They recalled a statement by Smith to Parliament on July 17, 2007, in which she detailed the exemptions for police from the 1998 Data Protection Act. They claimed that the statement did not mention other changes that would permit material to be sent outside the European Economic Area (EEA) to the authorities in the US and elsewhere.
Her permission to do so was hidden away in an earlier "special certificate" signed by the Home Secretary on July 4.
The certificate specifically sets out the level of data that can be sent to enforcement authorities outside the European Economic Area (the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) by anti-terrorist officers from the Metropolitan Police. It includes the vehicle registration mark, date, time and camera location."
A spokesman for Richard Thomas, the information commissioner, confirmed that the certificate had been worded so that the images of private cars, as well as registration numbers, could be sent outside to countries such as the USA.
Officers from the Metropolitan Police have been given the right to view in "real time" any CCTV images from cameras that are meant to be enforcing the congestion charge.
Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: "This confirms that this Government is happy to hand over potentially huge amounts of information on British citizens under the catch-all pretext of 'national security'."
Civil liberties campaigners said they were appalled that images of innocent people's journeys could end up in the hands of the British police, let alone foreign investigators.
They feared that it was a move towards the US-style system of "data mining" - in which powerful computers sifted millions of pieces of information as they tried to build patterns of behaviour and match them to material about suspects.
The Home Office, however, defended the powers in the certificate, which was signed specifically for the purposes of counter terrorism and national security.
A spokesman declined to say how many times images had been sent from London to other countries.