Oxford city council: every cab must have a CCTV to record riders' conversations

The Oxford city council has ruled that every taxi must be outfitted with a CCTV for the express purpose of recording passenger conversations that are to be held for 28 days in case the police wanted to conduct an investigation in which the footage might prove useful. The idea that peoples' words should be recorded when they are in public places "just in case," is really troubling, as it's hard to see why, if it's justifiable to record taxi passengers in case they're criminals, you wouldn't also record restaurant patrons, park-goers, bus-riders -- why you wouldn't, in short, record every word uttered in public just in case someone committed a crime.

And, of course, this is a natural progression from the existing CCTV doctrine that says you should record every person's movements (though not their words), for the same reason.

A council spokeswoman said the "video and audio would run all the time within the vehicle".

She said police would only locate footage, stored on a CCTV hard drive for 28 days, if it was needed for a police investigation.

She added: "The risk of intrusion into private conversations has to be balanced against the interests of public safety, both of passengers and drivers."

Big Brother Watch director Nick Pickles said: "Given that one rail route to Witney [David Cameron's constituency] is through Oxford, we'll be letting the prime minister know that his staff might want to avoid using Oxford cabs."

Oxford taxi conversations to be recorded, council rules (via /.)

(Image: Traffic in sidestreet of Oxford Street, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from cristiano_betta's photostream)


  1. Oxford Street is in London. I’m in Oxford right now. But nonetheless this is highly concerning.

  2. The obvious response is for everyone, whilst riding in cabs in Oxford, to do nothing but read clearly enunciated, creative commons licensed, erotic fan-fiction of only the most interesting varieties – if only so our dedicated police detectives do not become bored while searching for “clues”.

  3. While I’m sure there is a power/money play somewhere in this, a part of me almost thinks the government is trying to act out the fantasy cop shows they see on TV.  This seems right up the alley for the likes of Law and Order (I would say CSI, but they would be using a government satellite to record you and it would have perfect clarity and audio.)

  4. Of course it’s troubling. But how is it any different from the laws that require ISPs to preserve records of our internet habits. Or the case now in the US Supreme Court about whether police can attach a GPS to vehicles (potentially without a warrant) because the roads are public spaces. In principle, this taxi law is no different. It comes down to whether there is an expectation of privacy.

  5. England, land of the free, home of the brav……..Oh wait, that’s supposed to be America. But I’m sure we are right behind them.

  6. Okay, what’s fair is fair. Recording devices should then be set up in all of the city councelmember’s offices, just in case they do something illegal. As you know the risk of intrusion into private conversations has to be balanced against the interests of public safety.

  7. You bleeding-heart liberals, always whining about liberties. I just hope that the day that the first nuclear-armed pedophile terrorist, riding through Oxford with a suitcase full of cocaine and severed heads, is arrested as a result of this program, you’ll have the grace to admit that you were wrong.

  8. This is just stupid.  It will waste money and time, and it is extremely unlikely to result in any useful evidence being gathered because who the fuck discusses their crimes in the back of a cab anyway? There’s ALWAYS a witness right there in the front seat.

    The only possible benefit will be to provide video evidence of crimes taking place in the taxis themselves.  This may be a few fare-dodgers and drunk people taking a dump on the floor (seriously, I know of one guy who did that, but not in Oxford), and the occasional assault on a taxi driver. It will be interesting to see what the drivers think of this.

  9. i fully expect all potential oxfordian evildoers to cry “woe betide! my evil plans are thwarted!”
    and change their criminal ways as soon as they hear about this cunning trap.

    as a matter of fact, this stratagem will replace my current personal favorite piece of advanced crimefighting tactics: 
    the “do you plan to assassinate the president – tick one Y/N/MAYBE” 
    questionnaire that you have to answer before you are allowed to set foot  on  american soil.

  10. “Taxi Cab Conffessions: Oxford”

    “Man arrested in taxi cab after disparaging Prince Harry, claiming he, ‘didn’t like the cut of his jib.'”

  11. Allow me to start with the point that the Department of Pre-Crime is in full operation.  Second someone on the Oxford City Council has stock or an in with the manufactures of the systems needed.  People of Oxford… at what point does your fear of each other trump your liberty?  One day – likely soon – you might be arrested for what was a misunderstood joke said in the privacy of a friendly conversation in taxi.  You might even be accidentally hurt in this arrest based on no evidence at all. 

  12. What I don’t understand is how councilmembers 1.) come up with such a bad idea, and 2.) why they think it’s necessary. It really takes an amazing lack of sense and propriety to think your community is in need of such authoritarian measures.

    What’s the background to this measure? Is it the fever-dream of a handful of locals? Or, perhaps, is this an idea quietly handed-down to Oxford from much higher-up, as a test?

  13. Do they record the cabbies even when there isn’t a passenger on board? I’d sure hate for every fart I produced during the course of my work day to be part of the public record.

    1. I’d sure hate for every fart I produced during the course of my work day to be part of the public record.

      I’d take that as a challenge.

  14. The idea that peoples’ words should be recorded when they are in public places “just in case,” is really troubling,

    It’s not just really troubling, it’s really pathetic. Hungry for power over people much, Oxford?

  15. You know I would let them have that one without a fight if they agreed that every politician is to have all of their conversations recorded for public review, just in case one of them engages in improper dealings.

  16. This is too rich and the comedic possibilities are too numerous to go into here, but holding farting and belching contests while using sign language in reverse could be used to great effect. The purpose, naturally, would be to inundate the video archives of the police with such a superabundance of tripe, that they would eventually abandon the idea as unworkable. I imagine that “suspected” crimes would need to be cross-referenced according to the date on which the infraction occured, with the corresponding video and vehicle. 
    Oh, to be a fly on that wall, when our uniformed protectors discover that parody and satire cannot be legislated. Heck, I can see a day when Oxford residents take up mime……
    And what about theatrical makeup? Or, like that enterprising driver in Germany, years ago, who wore the pig mask to stymie the red light camera at the intersection? 
    Rise, oh citizens of Oxford!!! Make those uniformed clowns earn their keep!!!

  17. I’m sure Stalin would think twice about installing such a measure. Wtf is wrong with the world these days?

  18. I dunno, taxi-drivers are a pretty militant bunch when their livelihoods are deprecated, or at least our lot are.  I’ve seen ’em blockade the railway station when the council tried to quadruple the fees for being able to use the pickup ranks there (it costs a LOT to run a taxi, you need to pull in at least a grand a week before you start earning money for, you know, food and stuff, and that’s minicabs, not hacks). Who’s going to bear the brunt of installing these things? Presumably not the Council. Cos if it’s the cab-firms,  I’d love to see them band together and pull service for a couple of days. That ought to sort matters out pretty sharpish.

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