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Auto Trader has been forced to remove a key feature from its iPhone app, just two weeks after it was released. 

The DVLA has a problem with the image recognition element of the app, which allows users to take a photo of a car license plate and get results from dealers selling that make and model. 

The DVLA says that this feature conflicts with its code of ethics, as it allows users to capture images of vehicle license plates, though so do cameras and most mobile phones. 

According to Auto Trader:

The application draws only on publically available information and does not release owner details or information on where a vehicle is registered. However, we take consumer security extremely seriously and so have happily agreed to comply with the DVLA’s request. As a result, from the 30th March, the ‘snap’ function will be removed from the app.

It's a puzzling move as the app provides no information other than the make and model of the car photographed, and since there are plenty of other mobile services which use license plate information, such as the vehicle text check services which are commonly advertised. 

It robs the app and its users of a valuable function, one which worked well and that also provided an added 'wow factor' for the app, though perhaps, if the image is the problem, Auto Trader can replace this with the option to type in license plate numbers to achieve the same result. On the face of it, this seems to be an odd decision on the part of the DVLA. 

Graham Charlton

Published 31 March, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (6)

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Mike McDonnell

It makes no sense, how does information such as a license plate which is in plan view invade consumer security? If the app only returns make and model the consumer information was never in the equation. Auto Trader should have stood their ground.

over 6 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi Mike - that's the only reason given. It's funny that number plate recognition is OK when it comes to congestion charging though. 

over 6 years ago


Buy & Sell Number Plates

I agree Mike, its like the whole issue with Google Earth/Maps and people saying that it invades their privacy and that number plates should be blurred. Do they not know that anyone can walk down a street and see your number plate, or anything else visible from Google Maps? Nonsense imo and AutoTrader should have definitely stood their ground!

about 6 years ago



Roadside cameras recorded number plates before flashing their registration on to screens and revealing the grade of oil recommended for use in the car’s engine. Castrol used another firm to obtain the data, which is believed to have contained most of the 34million-strong driver details held by the DVLA. Just a bunch of Hippocrates :o) joneboy

almost 6 years ago


DVLA Number PLates

Another step to a nanny state, It's fine to have ANPR on every second lamp post though !!!! bet there's an app for that lol

over 5 years ago



Who's up for fighting for the right to have this as a public service?

Why should it only be confined to be used by the Police to give us PCN's only!

almost 5 years ago

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