The line 'You'll never guess who I had in the back of my cab' is hardly a sign that what passes between you and a cab driver will stay with them to the grave. However, it's not just the next passenger who could hear all about your idle chit chat, and the phone call you took in the cab, because apparently now the government could be listening in too.
They are proposing to install CCTV in the backs of cabs and record conversations, at a cost to the taxpayer of £260,000.
Oxford cabsThe plan is to put the cameras into 650 in taxis in Oxford. They will record sound and vision from the time the engine is turned on until 30 minutes after the engine stops. During that time, anything that passes between you and the cab driver will be recorded.The footage will be kept for 28 days, and can be brought out in the event of a police investigation.
On the one hand, clearly this sort of thing would be essential if, for example, the driver is attacked or the passenger makes threats. It is also encrypted, so will only ever be used in the event that the police need it. It will also be clear when you get into the cab that you will be under surveillance.
Big BrotherHowever, you have to ask whether the cost of £400 per cab is worth it. Surely there are enough CCTV cameras around our streets so that the drivers are covered if something was to go wrong. Why should the taxpayer be forced to pay out yet again for what could well be seen by many as a step too far in our surveillance society?
Our private conversations are no longer private. If you step into a cab with a friend, or continue on a work call, everything you say and do will be recorded, and can be retrieved by the police on the slightest pretext.
We may not be up to anything dodgy, but it doesn't mean we want the world and his wife to know our business. Neither do we want to pay for the privilege.
But what do you think? Is this alarming? Or is it just common sense to crack down on crime in cabs? Let us know in the comments.