Matt's Crow Country: Taking liberties with cameras?

PUBLISHED: 08:26 23 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:17 11 May 2010

BY NO means am I a technophobe, but I do sometimes feel like machines are taking over the world. A little while back I read an article by the hilarious Charlie Brooker, who pointed out that most of us spend our lives nowadays surrounded by screens, be the

BY NO means am I a technophobe, but I do sometimes feel like machines are taking over the world.

A little while back I read an article by the hilarious Charlie Brooker, who pointed out that most of us spend our lives nowadays surrounded by screens, be they at work, at home, or anywhere in between.

He's got a point, and same thing could be said of cameras. Without wishing to make the world sound like an Orwellian dystopia, you barely seem to be able to move these days without being caught on film by someone, who will usually claim they're doing it for the greater.

This will soon be the case if you drive a car in Royston, as the Hertfordshire police force are looking to purchase and install extra automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras in the town.

Neighbourhood sergeant Jon Vine told last week's meeting of North Herts district council's Royston area committee that he "wants to get every entrance to the town covered" so that the police can easily identify car thieves, burglars, and other ne'er-do-wells operating in the area.

All well and good, and of course I don't have a problem with the police trying to do their jobs as effectively as possible.

The problem I have with this system is that it stores the number plates of all motorists on a database for up to two years, whether they have committed an offence or not. To me this seems completely unnecessary if all you are trying to do is flag up criminals. Surely once you have established that a car isn't breaking any law then its details should be immediately removed.

In fairness to the police, Inspector Andy Piper, who also addressed the meeting, was keen to stress that this isn't a case of big brother watching over everyone. But that is how it seems, and it is a situation which makes me very uncomfortable.

I was delighted to see President Obama's healthcare bill make it through the US House of representatives this week.

If made law, the controversial bill will extend cover 32 million additional Americans who do not currently get mandatory healthcare.

The fact that a major world power like America does not currently offer this is a shocking indictment on their society if you ask me, and I hope president Obama succeeds in his reform programme.

But moreover it makes you realise how lucky we are to have our National Health Service. It may be much-maligned, but to have an NHS which is free, and for the most part very reliable, is something we as a nation should be proud of.

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