Oxford drops always-on audio taxi recording

Back in November last year, we launched a campaign to stop Oxford Council recording the conversations of taxi passengers in the city. It received international attention, while local MPs and MEPs joined in our condemnation of the idea.

We can now confirm the Council has dropped the scheme, with the Council’s licensing boss telling the Oxford Times “The continuous audio recording is not something we will be pursuing.”

This is excellent news and a long overdue announcement.

The idea of the council requiring – as a condition of a taxi license – that microphones should always be active until half an hour after the engine has stopped  was absurd, but it has taken several months of campaigning to see off this intrusive policy.

We would like to thank Nigel Farage MEP and Nicola Blackwood MP, who both called publicly for the scheme to be abandoned, along with everyone who signed the local petitions, emailed their support or attended the demonstration we held in Oxford. The local taxi drivers themselves played a huge role, without whom the campaign could not have succeeded. The Information Commissioner’s Office also played a central role in ensuring a flagrant breach of their CCTV code of conduct did not go unchallenged.

The regulation of CCTV will continue to be a huge issue as the technology becomes cheaper, smaller and more powerful. Our sights now turn to ensuring anyone using audio CCTV is held to account and these schemes are not allowed to become another part of Britain’s surveillance culture.


UPDATE: The ICO has now also taken action against Southampton Council for the same policy.