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Email Warning - Speed Camera Offence Information Available Online

Email claims that anybody can view information about a driver's speed camera offences by visiting a publicly accessible website (Full commentary below).

False - the website is intended as a joke.

Example:(Submitted, April 2006)
Check this out - its amazing!

Did you know that recent Government legislation changing the Freedom of Information Acts gives you access to speed camera offences registered within the last twelve months and placed on a freely accessible website?

Did you know that every time your car goes even over a mile or so over the speed limit, it is registered and placed on the database?

They only send a ticket if you are way over, OR (and here is the rub.. if you receive over 20 near misses") You can now check how many you have against your car's registered number.

Check this page:

It will ask you for a password - but just click on the 'need a password/' link and you'll be given one in a pop-up window. In the top right hand corner there is a "click-on" window and it even shows the picture taken by the camera!!!

At face value, the information in this emailed warning sounds very worrying! It would certainly be a considerable invasion of your privacy if members of the public could access a personal record of any speed camera offences that you might have against your name.

However, in spite of appearances, no speed camera data is actually accessible on this site. The site is a harmless prank. When a concerned visitor logs on to the site and submits a registration number for checking, a page with some seemingly legitimate data about a recent speeding offence will be displayed. The display includes a "View Picture" button that supposedly allows the visitor to see the actual speed camera photograph of the offence. However, the resulting picture represents the punch line of the joke. After viewing the picture, the visitor is left in no doubt that he or she has been caught out by a clever cyber-prank.

The first indication that the site is not serious is that it actually provides login details for any visitor who requires them. Clicking the "Need a login?" link opens a pop-up window that provides a working username and password. Naturally, since anybody can access login details, password protecting the information is totally redundant. Also, there is no need to provide a real registration number in order to obtain results from the "database". Any string of numbers or letters will be accepted as a "vehicle registration".

So, despite any concerns raised by this email forward, the site is not really a threat to personal privacy. The final "punch line" page of the site does contain some advertising, which presumably helps to raise revenue for the site owners. However, there is nothing intrusive or untoward about this advertising. Taken in context, the site provides a simple and harmless prank to play on your friends.

Unfortunately, submissions indicate that many people believe the information in the email is true and are forwarding it to all of their friends without actually checking the site first. Thus, the joke is completely lost on many recipients who may continue to erroneously believe that the site represents a genuine threat to their privacy. This email, although intended as a joke, may be in fact helping to spread unrealistic concerns about personal privacy issues.

Another very similar prank website that is also the subject of an emailed "warning", claims that driver's licence information is publicly available online.

Write-up by Brett M. Christensen