Dozens of police cars have already been fitted with new surveillance technology which can draw personal information from a car’s licence plates, while the system is set to be rolled out further, police said on Tuesday.
The system can identify the owner of the car, whether they or the vehicle has been involved in any infractions, if the car is insured and other information.
“There are massive benefits to this. It makes the police more efficient and will also be less troublesome to the public as they won’t be pulled over as often for random stops,” Paphos police spokesman Michalis Ioannou told the Cyprus Mail.
He said that due to the importance of the new technology and its effectiveness its use will be greatly increased and many more officers will be trained to handle it.
The new technology has been in use for about a year. Police in their cars can automatically see on a computer screen all the relevant information about a car and its owner, Ioannou added.
The system is connected to many other databases and can cross reference other data which may be linked to crimes other than just road violations. He explained that this will help solve ongoing crimes.
When asked about the implications for personal privacy, he said that “there are none at all. Any details and information used or obtained stay within the police systems. The public should stay calm and not worry about these issues as none of the data will be given out.”
Cyprus faces serious problems with road safety and traffic violations and the new technology will almost certainly make a significant contribution to help resolve these issues.
However, it is also clear that such a system has the potential to monitor on a mass scale the movement and other sensitive information of people in public spaces. He echoed the popular sentiment that “if you’re not doing anything wrong then you don’t have anything to worry about, we’re only looking out for illegal activity.”
Deputy Head and Spokesman of Traffic Police Haris Evripidou told the Cyprus Mail that “it gives us a much clearer picture of what’s happening out on the roads, what type of crimes are going on.”
Privacy concerns were raised surrounding narcotests which came into force in 2018. When asked about the use of narcotests, Ioannou said that “out of about 500 narcotests carried out in the last year, over 400 hundred returned positive.”
But the positivity rate of 80 per cent should not cause alarm, he said. Tests are targeted at a very small amount of people who are not representative of society at large.