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Repo Men Using New Technology To Track Cars

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the more-you-drive-the-less-intelligent-you-are dept.

Privacy 222

kamapuaa writes "The NY Times has an article about how real-time license plate scanning is changing the car repo business. MVTRAC is one of several companies providing technology to track car license plates automatically, in order to populate private databases. This new tech is used by car repo companies to help banks or other lenders repossess cars; by police to find stolen cars or to locate ticket scofflaws; or really for whatever application MVTRAC and its competitors feel like pursuing, as the new-found industry lacks any kind of government oversight."

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This is just perfect! (4, Insightful)

dfetter (2035) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300358)

...for stalkers.

Time to ban!

Re:This is just perfect! (1)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 4 years ago | (#31301136)

Time to ban!

For that you need to add.

"Somebody think of the children!"

simple ? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31300366)

$600/mo ? you could take a webcam and run it through any ocr software and get the same result for less than $600/month.
wtf ?

Re:simple ? (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300512)

I'm guessing the $600 also includes the encrypted DB of 'cars destined to be re-homed'.

Re:simple ? (4, Insightful)

The End Of Days (1243248) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300616)

Yes, it is perfectly normal to pay more for a service than it costs to do it yourself. The money saved is invested as time and effort, which is what you compensate the service provider for providing. This is basic to the US society, and quite a few others as well. It confuses me that you are obviously educated enough to compose English sentences yet somehow missed a fact that even 10 year olds understand.

Can you help me... (3, Funny)

ak_hepcat (468765) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300376)

find my internet girlfriend?

she said she went to school yesterday, but my best friend Mike who says he's in her class didn't see her at all, and that she hasn't taught class all week..

driving is not a right (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31300378)

I'm sorry, driving is not a right in the US.

John

Re:driving is not a right (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31300422)

Aside from parts of NYC, you can't get around any American city without having an automobile. It's almost as necessary to live as water, food, shelter and clothing.

Re:driving is not a right (3, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300492)

So? Nobody's denying you the privilege but you have to drive a car you can afford, pay the insurance and park it properly when you arrive.

From what I've seen though, "living within your means" isn't what Americans are best at.

Re:driving is not a right (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31300522)

well shut the fuck up you snobbish blowhard.
the right to travel is an absolute right.
if you cant travel without a car then driving is a right.

Re:driving is not a right (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300528)

From what I've seen though, "living within your means" isn't what Americans are best at.

Well, saying what we mean isn't exactly our strong suit either.

Re:driving is not a right (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31300808)

Go "eff yourself." I mean really. You may enjoy your European/Chinese/Arab/whatever surveillance society. No doubt Mussolini made the Italian repo men run on time too.

As for me, I would prefer that no one be able to purchase my travel history from a private company. Or any of my medical, personal, credit information for that matter.

As a reporter, I can tell you there are numerous and perfectly ethical reasons why wholesale breaches of privacy are abhorrent to freedom. The least of which is that I certainly don't trust some MVTRAC dumbass employee having his laptop stolen from his car.

"MVTRAC utilizes a centralized database that receives license plate image reads from remote systems in real time via the Internet. The license plate reader systems can be either fixed or mobile, and utilize a wired, Wi-Fi, or Verizon wireless broadband connection. Plate images are stored in the database, and clients can connect using a web browser to manually search for plate sightings."

Re:driving is not a right (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31300966)

So? Nobody's denying you the privilege but you have to drive a car you can afford, pay the insurance and park it properly when you arrive.

From what I've seen though, "living within your means" isn't what Americans are best at.

Actually, with the election of Obama and the unleasing of the Pelosi-created ginormous deficits, we're trying to emulate the Greeks and Venezuelans and go completely broke.

Read the US Constitution and learn where all spending bills must originate, and see how US deficits, which had been shrinking, began to grow again under Pelosi's "leadership", when Democrats took control of the one body of the US Government that creates those spending bills. [washingtonpost.com]

Nevermind what they're projected to do under the Great God of Hopenchange.

Re:driving is not a right (2, Interesting)

sayfawa (1099071) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300586)

People who exaggerate are worse than Hitler. I've lived in several non-NY American cities, and visited plenty of others, and got around on public transportation just fine. Sometimes they were big cities, sometimes they were small. Sometimes they were even on the west coast.

Re:driving is not a right (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31300698)

People who exaggerate are worse than Hitler.

Yes because everyone knows that engaging in a bit of exaggeration is far, far worse than plunging the world into the most violent conflict of an entire century as well as orchestrating the industrialized murder of millions of innocent people.

Re:driving is not a right (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300742)

I think he probably meant to reference Mussolini. He's the one who made public transportation run on time.

Re:driving is not a right (2, Insightful)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300718)

right. Like bicycles don't exist. Like you can't move closer to work. If you can't see past anb automobile in your life, you won't have a life to live much past 2025.

Re:driving is not a right (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300752)

Like bicycles don't exist. Like you can't move closer to work.

Bicycles suck in bad weather, and not everyone can live close to work. If households were all one income (or at least everyone employed had the same employer), you'd need a company town system to manage that. Since they aren't, it's not even possible that way.

Try having a seizure (4, Informative)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300780)

It's almost as necessary to live as water, food, shelter and clothing.

In NJ, PA, NY, CT, CA, and I forget what other state, if you let your own doctor find out during an appointment that you had a seizure or other loss of consciousness, or if someone calls 911 to report one to an ambulance/ER, state law requires the first doctor who finds out to fax the DMV immediately, so they can suspend your license as they would after a long string of DUIs. (He added, with the faintest trace of bitterness.) Specifically, if you get into an accident determined to have stemmed from this then the doctor bears culpability and is on the hook for any damages or casualties that result. I've spent my entire life living in NJ, NY, PA, and CA, and I've been pedestrianized by every single one of them.

Having a reliable warning period of several minutes before seizures makes no difference legally. (This is just continued whining now.) But tactically it makes a huge difference. I managed to hide my condition from the medical community in California for several years. I fibbed to doctors and didn't let them know. If I saw an aura from a rising seizure, I made an immediate exit and found a good place to hide (or I ran outside, into the woods, wherever). This worked pretty well but it all came to an end when I got stuck in a line at Fry's Electronics. I can't even remember what bullshit was in my hands, but it definitely wasn't worth it, especially overpriced Fry's bullshit with tricky return policies and bad support and fucking rebates to mail in. I probably collapsed because my brain was making a desperate attempt to stop the purchase. Now I'm riding a bike six miles to work to get my water, food, shelter etc. Driving is definitely a privilege. So remember as you drive, not all bicyclists are exercising yuppies. Some of us are just fucked.

Re:Try having a seizure (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31300822)

Are we supposed to feel sympathy for you? If you suffer from chronic seizures not only are you a danger to yourself behind the wheel but a danger to other drivers and pedestrians.

I'm guessing from your comments that State DMV's don't share information with each other if you were able to get licensed in each of them, which is quite galling. Either that or you were perpetrating some sort of fraud whenever you moved and applied for a license.

Re:Try having a seizure (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300930)

I'm guessing from your comments that State DMV's don't share information with each other if you were able to get licensed in each of them, which is quite galling. Either that or you were perpetrating some sort of fraud whenever you moved and applied for a license.

No, it doesn't work like that. If you lose your license in one state you cannot just move to another state and start driving again. They all share this information as you move from state to state. It follows you like a curse. But also, there are varying time limitations with respect to the required lengths of seizure-free time. And enough time passed in one state. So it's not really as bad as a string of DUIs in that respect.

Re:Try having a seizure (2, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 4 years ago | (#31301050)

I'm going to guess you never use your pda/phone while driving? That you never have a conversation with another passenger while driving? That you never have the music too loud while driving? That you never drink a beverage or eat anything while driving? that you never allow passengers in your vehicle that might distract you? That you never operate a motor vehicle while suffering the affects of a cold?

To single out one small group of people and say they are dangerous is to completely ignore the huge impact that blonde hair makes... kidding aside, there are millions of dangerous drivers on the roads of North America who can not be medically denied a driving license, but who otherwise should be denied the privilege of driving just because they are reckless. I'm not saying I want a head on with someone having a seizure, but to single that problem out and not also fairly suggest that there are a great many people who should not be driving along with him is wrong.

The simple fact is that North America is not designed such that driving is a privilege. It is a necessity, for most people outside large metropolitan areas. I live in a large metro area and outside of the main downtown areas, it's practically impossible to use public transport unless you combine it with some driving of your own. I like public transport, it's just not feasible here to use it only.

That means that there will be millions of drivers driving who a) really don't need to be and/or b) who really shouldn't be. Until you address the initial issue, subjugating some drivers to an unfair situation is really not in the spirit if American freedoms.

On topic: while having a camera sit and record license plates is no more intrusive on a public road than someone physically standing there doing so, recording my travels is tantamount to stopping all travelers and asking for their papers. Such an activity is clearly not within the bounds, intent, or scope of the Constitution. Operating a motor vehicle may be believed to not be a right, but traveling unfettered by having to produce your papers is. There are those who believe that licensing for drivers and for motor vehicles is contrary to standing law, and there is room for the argument as some folk to drive unlicensed vehicles without an operator's permit. Unfettered travel within the borders is a right.

Re:Try having a seizure (1)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 4 years ago | (#31301152)

(NOTE: when I say "people with seizures" I mean people with chronic seizures that are a danger to other people on roads.)

I'll occasionally use my cell phone, have a conversation, and listen to music. Of course, none of these things is nearly as dangerous as having a a seizure that completely removes your ability to operate a vehicle in any capacity whatsoever. I'm not saying that it isn't dangerous, I'm saying that having a seizure is one hell of a lot MORE dangerous than using a cell phone.

Yes, there are other reckless drivers that need to have their license revoked but don't have some medical condition (like seizures) that make it easy to do this. But that does NOT mean that people with seizures should be allowed to drive. The problem is that public transportation sucks everywhere in the entire united states except for NY and Washington DC. It isn't like we can just rearrange a freaking city and people are NEVER going to allow a tax increase to build public transportation, so we're stuck with cars.

Re:Try having a seizure (0)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300832)

I didn't know any of this. I had a mild stroke back in '98 and I wasn't allowed drive for 6 months so I feel a little of your pain. If I had a mod point I'd mark you 'Interesting' (even though I'd be tempted to mod you 'Dork' too 'cuz you ride a bike).

So remember as you drive, not all bicyclists are exercising yuppies. Some of us are just fucked.

Now I'm going to feel bad every time I splash a guy riding a bike with my car.

Sorry Man! (1)

gbutler69 (910166) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300860)

That Sucks! Really. Not kidding. But, most people don't give a shit. They could give a fuck less if you get run over repeatedly by a BMW. Fuck you for being less than perfect.

Re:driving is not a right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31300852)

I'm sorry, but you're just fucking retardedly wrong.. I'm the anon right-wing nutjob who wrote the GP post. I've lived in a small town in rural Appalachia without a car. I've lived in Columbus, OH without a car. I've lived in Abu Dhabi without a car, and I've lived in Enid, OK without a car. I can tell you with certainty that you can live in almost any city in the world without a car. You have to make a reasonable choice about where you're going to live, but my boss in college was 68 and had never owned a car. Oh yeah, he was a full professor. It's not a fucking "necessity", it's a privilege. If anything, it's easier now than 20 years ago. Use your feet. Ride a skateboard (good way to get around DC, and parking isn't a problem.) Ride a bike. Take a bus, take a cab. Hitchhike. If you've got a few acres, ride a horse. Motorcycle, moped, scooter, rollerblades. You don't have to drive a car.

Re:driving is not a right (1, Informative)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300470)

I agree...if you want to drive you need to pay insurance/tax/parking, etc., ie. act like a member of the society you're so happy to leech off. Oh, and pay for the car as well - they catch loads of stolen cars or cars where people don't make payments.

ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras are widespread in the UK and they definitely get my vote.

Re:driving is not a right (3, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300648)

I agree...if you want to drive you need to pay insurance/tax/parking, etc., ie. act like a member of the society you're so happy to leech off.

Thank you, Thomas Hobbes. Any other arbitrary and capricious hoops you would like people to be required to jump through before engaging in ordinary activities?

ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras are widespread in the UK and they definitely get my vote.

Yeah, the UK, now there's an example to follow in the realm of privacy.

Re:driving is not a right (2, Insightful)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300716)

Insurance isn't an `arbitrary` hoop. It's a way of ensuring that if you hit my car, you get to pay for it. What's the alternative? The courts of the country being clogged up with loads of civil law suits for every last accident?

Re:driving is not a right (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300960)

Yes it is. It's fairly easy to have a pile of money in the bank that is larger than the minimum level of insurance in your state, and if you have that pile of money, why should you be required to bleed it to an insurance company? You should be able to risk your own dough if you want.

Re:driving is not a right (2, Informative)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300990)

I think most states allow you to post a bond for the minimum amount in lieu of insurance, the catch being that you don't get interest from your $50k being held.

Re:driving is not a right (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 4 years ago | (#31301002)

What's the alternative? The courts of the country being clogged up with loads of civil law suits for every last accident?

How about this. Insurance is not compulsory but if you have an accident and damage my Porsche and you can't pay you will be butchered and your organs sold at auction to cover the cost. Or maybe converted into an indentured labourer, if my other workers think you'd be more useful that way.

Just brainstorming here.

Re:driving is not a right (4, Insightful)

weston (16146) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300618)

Driving's not a right, but a certain amount of privacy should be, and unless you want a database of where you drive for sale whether you make your automobile payments or not, you should probably be on the side of people who are interested in oversight.

Re:driving is not a right (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300792)

I'm sorry, driving is not a right in the US.

John

Are you sure about that?

[educate-yourself.org]
[the7thfire.com]
[capmag.com]
[lawfulpath.com]

That's what all of about three milliseconds of Google time found me.

Re:driving is not a right (0, Redundant)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300818)

I'm sorry, driving is not a right in the US.

John

Are you sure about that?

[lawfulpath.com]
[educate-yourself.org]
[the7thfire.com]
[capmag.com]

That's what all of about three milliseconds of Google time found me.

Re:driving is not a right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31301016)

wow, and I thought I was a nutjob. Read much more carefully. When you find specific facts in there, and you have to dig through the nutiness, you'll find that, in the US, you have a right to travel. That is very different then a right to drive. That is enshrined in the constitution -- the right to peaceably assemble. In other words, you're fucked up, and you're wrong, but good on you for caring.

It's not just America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31300408)

The automobile is cultural heroin, and countries, as they "modernize", are lining up at the pusher's corner.

Re:It's not just America (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300546)

The automobile is cultural heroin, and countries, as they "modernize", are lining up at the pusher's corner.

I hope they're allowed to part at his corner or they'll end up with another ticket and we'll be right back to where we started again.

Why? (0)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300414)

Why does somebody driving down the (public) road taking a picture of your (public) license plate on your car parked in (public) plain view and comparing it to a list need oversight?

Re:Why? (5, Insightful)

JeffSh (71237) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300454)

Pretty dumb question. Like a lot of other things, license plates weren't intended to be this easily accessed for their location and traffic habits. I did a lot of work managing municipal data and one of the concerns is that the ease of access of "public" information is causing a major headache.

For instance, lots of public records were public records because in order to get them you had to go to the court house, fill out a request, pay some money and receive them. Removing the barrier to access by opening certain public records up to electronic access is causing a notable and legitimate concern for privacy where none existed before.. The clear reason is because before it used to require a concerted effort and will as a barrier to entry. When things are made easier it removes the barrier which previously existed as a bulwark that satiated existing privacy concerns.

Speed of information should legitimately be a concern in the digital age where our laws and regulations what is publicly available information just don't adapt well to the modern age.

Re:Why? (3, Funny)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300508)

Then ride a bike, problem solved. I just don't see the BFD.

Re:Why? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31300530)

Then ride a bike, problem solved. I just don't see the BFD.

How about this. You shed skin cells while you are in public. You shed skin cells on receipts when you sign for things you paid with by credit card. My private company has a right to collect your DNA, match it up to your name, and do whatever it is I want to do with the data.

If you don't want your DNA scraped, don't go into public. Problem solved. I just don't see the BFD.

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300580)

Why don't you post on /. under your real name?

Re:Why? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31300756)

I do - MOTHERFUCKER.

My fist name is ANONYMOUS

And my last name is COWARD.

As in Noel. coward. And my parents were stupid fucking hippies who thought it would be cool to name me Anonymous.

Luckily, my middle name is Aloysius. So, my friend call me Al, and a lot of other known me as A. Coward.

Fuckers.

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300602)

Driving is pretty much required in the US. Tracking license plate 'location related activity' is analogous to tracking your cell phone's GPS. Just because you're "out in public" doesn't mean your movements should be logged or recorded.

I have nothing to hide, but I'm still not comfortable with someone/government tracking my movements just because they can.

Re:Why? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300784)

Sorry by carrying a cell phone does not place a tag on you butt with you name and address. Location information for a cell phone is not available to a person standing next to you but a car license number is available to anyone looking at the car.

Re:Why? (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300878)

Sorry by carrying a cell phone does not place a tag on you butt with you name and address. Location information for a cell phone is not available to a person standing next to you but a car license number is available to anyone looking at the car.

If you're standing next to me then you don't need the cell phone GPS to know where I am, now do you? By your logic tracking the movement of my car by its license plate only tracks the car and not necessarily the owner of the car. Who knows who parked it there? Maybe it was a guy wearing a monkey mask and not me? Maybe it was me wearing a monkey mask?

Re:Why? (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 4 years ago | (#31301054)

Your GPS position is just a number. I thought we decided back when the AACS key leaked [wikipedia.org] that it was silly for people to complain when numbers were posted on the internet. In fact the Streisand affect clearly applies here - complaining about it just makes the problem worse.

Re:Why? (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31301208)

Your GPS position is just a number.

GPS is just a number to you or me, but it's a real location someone or some company with a the ability to use those numbers (if my cell phone can show me where I am on a map someone's servers can too). What's to prevent a wireless carrier from selling that location data just like a company tracking license plates can?

Government and law enforcement don't need a warrant [newsweek.com] to get the info on where you've been. Some wireless carriers even have internet portals [arstechnica.com] to make it as easy as possible.

Sure GPS is just a number - it's the combination to the history of your movements.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31300748)

Oh that. That's because you're an idiot. No amount of informative posts will help you.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31300564)

And to say something unpopular on slashdot... The same argument is being said about intellectual property.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31300570)

Pretty dumb question. Like a lot of other things, license plates weren't intended to be this easily accessed for their location and traffic habits. I did a lot of work managing municipal data and one of the concerns is that the ease of access of "public" information is causing a major headache.

For instance, lots of public records were public records because in order to get them you had to go to the court house, fill out a request, pay some money and receive them. Removing the barrier to access by opening certain public records up to electronic access is causing a notable and legitimate concern for privacy where none existed before.. The clear reason is because before it used to require a concerted effort and will as a barrier to entry. When things are made easier it removes the barrier which previously existed as a bulwark that satiated existing privacy concerns.

Speed of information should legitimately be a concern in the digital age where our laws and regulations what is publicly available information just don't adapt well to the modern age.

So charge people money for access, and keep a database of who accessed what like the damn credit reporting agencies. Problem solved.

Re:Why? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300844)

So charge people money for access, and keep a database of who accessed what like the damn credit reporting agencies. Problem solved.

Are you kidding me? The credit system in the U.S. (and its lack of basic security mechanisms, severe privacy issues and overall unaccountability) is a huge, ongoing problem with no resolution in sight. Geez, did you pick a bad example.

Privacy Is Not Being Invaded (1)

MVTRAC (1755774) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300620)

MVTRAC is simply a tool to speed the process of what is and has been available for over 30 years. MVTRAC users cannot access your license plate information, registration or any other information. The system simply takes information already provided and makes it instantly available at the moment, versus having to dig through paperwork or look something up. Everyone should realize there are and have been legitimate laws governing the sharing of information that disallow both people and companies from accessing information, both public record or otherwise, without satisfying a plethora of criteria.

Re:Why? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300650)

"Public record" as it applies to a municipality is is different from tag scanning. Am I wrong or can anyone, no matter what the reason, request and be given access to information on the public record? The need for a request is that the information must be gathered by a municipal employee and the reason for fees is to cover the cost of gathering the information. There are many cases in which public record information is put up on web sites and is available at no charge to anyone with an internet connection.

Another difference is that some "public record" information is contained on forms that are submitted to the city and the submitter may think that the city's confidentiality rules would apply to that information. This may constitute reasonable assumption of privacy. On the other hand the information that a vehicle with a certain tag is located and a certain place is plastered on the vehicle and available to anyone looking at that vehicle.

Re:Why? (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300760)

i think the real concern government has about the digital age is the population working out just how much information about them is out there, and getting angry about it where before finding out requried going down to a court house....

Re:Why? (1)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300788)

Public records must be public. if you don't want a government record to be public don't allow them to make it. Get rid of the licensing scheme and license drivers.

Re:Why? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300902)

We do license drivers. We register vehicles. A licensed driver is supposed to be operating a registered vehicle when on public roads, and that registration requires a certain level of maintenance to hopefully ensure that all those licensed drivers aren't putting us all at undue risk.

It's just some kind of weird historical quirk that the registration tag ( you know, the tag which conspicuously displays the vehicle's registration number..) is so ubiquitously referred to as a "license plate" in common parlance. Obviously you can't license a thing, it makes no sense. License is what you grant a person to do an activity.

Re:Why? (0, Offtopic)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300940)

You stink like a grammar gNazi.

Re:Why? - military grade computation... 20 yrs ago (1)

j-stroy (640921) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300848)

I recollect that computation, imaging hardware and certain algorithms were considered "munitions". They were banned from export due to their possible use in weapons and as intelligence devices.

This kind of thing is no different. I now see it as a deep incorporation into our civilian domains of military grade technologies. Information age demands an information equivalent of "posse comitatus" [wikipedia.org] and organizations/corporations such as this could be viewed as illegal private militias.

Culturally, we are dangerous fundamentalists, as rabid as any other.. it is just that we see technology as the ultimate saviour and solver of all problems.. it just ain't so.

Re:Why? (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300900)

Yeah, I bought some land in 1998 and had to make repeated trips to the courthouse to research recent sales, ownership histories, etc. It took days and weeks, hundreds of road miles, time off from work, etc. Now we can get the same information from virtually any county in the United States 24/7/365, for free, from our bedroom. Great for us if we ever do another land deal, but you're talking about dropping the "cost" of that information by many orders of magnitude, it has to have messed up the playing field for some people.

Re:Why? (1)

cetialphav (246516) | more than 4 years ago | (#31301052)

Pretty dumb question.

It doesn't sound like a dumb question to me. From a legal perspective (in the US), we don't really have a "right to privacy". There are some rights (e.g. prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure) that come close, but they really aren't the same. The law specifically grants a privacy right for some things (e.g. medical information), but it is limited in scope. It could become feasible that for a fee you could collect a complete history of someones driving, phone calls, grocery list, movie rentals. It is reasonable to be concerned about this.

The problem, though, is that there is no legal reason today to prohibit the collection and reselling of this data. The law's view is the same as OverlordQ's question. All of the information involved was public so what is the big deal? The law must be extended to allow prohibitions of this behavior. But how should that law be structured? It seems difficult to structure things so that privacy can be protected without imposing unreasonable restrictions on businesses.

Re:Why? (1)

KahabutDieDrake (1515139) | more than 4 years ago | (#31301144)

Having worked in government records... I have the opposite opinion. Public records are just becoming truly public for the first time in history. I don't have a problem with this. It's a public record, what exactly do you think you are hiding?

So anyone can find out where you live, how old you are, where you went to school, which hospital you prefer, and what you drive. Big deal. All this information was trivial for anyone to look at before. The only difference is you THOUGHT it was hard. That's not privacy any more than taking bottled water from air travelers is security.

People need to realize that PUBLIC records means FUCKING PUBLIC. However, I don't think that's likely to happen, people have a tough time grasping the concept these days. I wonder if facebook/myspace et all can be held accountable?

There have been companies (like Lexis Nexis) that have been collating and gathering this kind of data for a couple decades. People only just now becoming aware of this does not make it nefarious or dangerous. It wasn't dangerous or nefarious 10 years ago, or twenty. Just because you put computers in the mix, it doesn't become so. Specifically, license plate data is ALREADY COLLECTED by most state DOTs. How? Why? With street view cameras, ostensibly for traffic research and control. However, the point is that the data is ALREADY being collected and used by government agencies. What is the big deal about a few private contractors getting in on it?

Re:Why? (1)

angelwolf71885 (1181671) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300482)

using information to TRACK you is called STALKING and ILLEGAL my privacy super seeds ANYONES need to know including google and the government

Re:Why? (1)

ffreeloader (1105115) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300664)

What seeds do you have that are so super with regard to privacy? Are they the ones that grow privacy? ;)

Re:Why? (1)

The End Of Days (1243248) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300696)

Is this super seeding in any way an infringement on Monsanto patents?

Re:Why? (5, Interesting)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300636)


Why does somebody driving down the (public) road taking a picture of your (public) license plate on your car parked in (public) plain view and comparing it to a list need oversight?

That alone I don't think requires oversight.

What DOES require oversight is the same system, but writing it to a database including current location. Then selling said database to whomever. Your health insurance provider starts scanning it to see how many times you've been seen at Mickey-Ds in the last year. Once a week? Sorry sir, you'll have to pay a higher premium for that.

Or how about the new business called Cyber Stalkers! For only $50 a search we'll tell you the daily traffic patterns of anyone you desire. For only $1000, you can get on the "privacy list" so people with $50 can't see where you've been. (If you'd like to see the where people with the privacy option have been call us for pricing details).

Too outlandish? Never happen because too many would object? Why not a more acceptable service where only "bad" people get reported on. Enter "Strip club search!" For only $20 a search we'll tell you if you're loved one has been at all the local strip clubs (name, dates, locations, and duration). It's OK because it only targets those dirty strip club guys.

There's countless ways an automated system like this can destroy peoples privacy in ways that don't exist right now.

Re:Why? (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300782)

Wow - it's like you're already following me around and documenting my life. How do you know all this about me anyway? Hmmm?

Re:Why? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300836)

Need to take "extraordinary child custody measures"? We can help!

Re:Why? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300798)

So it doesn't get used by stalkers, jealous ex-whatevers, etc. So it isn't used carelessly by banks such that cars get wrongfully repoed, etc.

Re:Why? (2, Insightful)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300828)

I was thinking about near-future tech applications a few years back (maybe 2004), and I came up with the idea of mounting belly-cams in commercial jetliners. These could be trained on interstate highways and read license plates in favorable weather. Miami-LAX flights could monitor I-10, Miami-NY could watch I-95, etc. Not much investment or operating expense in exchange for a tremendous amount of near real-time information about who is traveling the long-distance highways.

It isn't "if", it's "when" this tech is deployed. On the one hand, I'd like to have a camera pointed out my front window recording every license tag that passes my house - on the other hand, I'd really rather not be called in for questioning just because I drove by the scene of a crime around the same time it supposedly happened.

Re:Why? (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300994)

Why does somebody driving down the (public) road taking a picture of your (public) license plate on your car parked in (public) plain view and comparing it to a list need oversight?

Well, let's say that you're driving from work to some suppliers, then see some customers, then drive out to dinner with someone else. Theoretically, a competitor could put a tail on you and find out where you buy all of your supplies from, who your client list is, and where you like to eat dinner. In practice, though, it's prohibitively expensive to do this to anyone but Steve Jobs.

With automated tracking, people can know what you've been and where you're going. Now they know where you pick up your supplies (and therefore about how much you're paying). Now they know your customers (and can attempt to pick them off). Now they know your favorite restaurant (...not so useful that one). So of course now you have to take more expensive countermeasures, yadda yadda. Your competitors could pay a data warehouse say... 100 dollars per your employee, and get readouts of where they've all gone in the past month. Maybe that lets them figure out a secret ingredient in your special sauce. Maybe they find out that a key person keeps going to swank parts of town, and might be susceptible to being lured away by a bigger salary. Or that someone is cheating on their significant other. Or nothing at all. But none of this would really be considered normal or acceptable business practices.

Maybe the mob pays to track their employees and their employees contacts, to make sure nobody ever gets near a police station. Or crazy people start tracking public officials with the hopes of assassinating them. Or public officials track eachother in the hopes of manufacturing some dirt to use against them. Essentially, it opens up a can of worms that we haven't prepared for. And maybe the only amount of preparation needed is to argue about it for a while and realize that it isn't the end of the world. But that's still a dialog that needs to take place.

Almost any industry lacks oversight in the US... (0, Flamebait)

Yaa 101 (664725) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300426)

Almost any industry lacks oversight in the US, that is why that place is a litigious wild west.

20 years ago (1)

R3coiler (1740032) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300440)

They had this technology twenty years ago. It mainly consisted of Rain Man memorizing license plate numbers.

That's the first I've heard of this! (1)

ipX (197591) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300452)

As a "nosy citizen with enough cash," I have been waiting to find out if the mayor is having an affair [slashdot.org] by tracking his plates. The ACLU doesn't like it [slashdot.org] but nobody cares [slashdot.org] . Or do they? [slashdot.org]

Re:That's the first I've heard of this! (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300626)

Dr Zoidberg: Hey, look, everybody! It's a Slashdot trifecta! That place knows everything ... perhaps too much?

Pay for what you buy, no problem. (1, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300466)

Plate scanning systems are just a fast way to do what repo folks have been doing for years. They still need to verify the VIN, and in some areas present Claim and Delivery paperwork to repo a vehicle.

Lots of car buyers try to rip off dealers, and instead of working out payments (most dealers would rather have incoming money than a car sitting on the lot) they disappear with the car.

Plate scanners also offer a way to catch uninsured drivers (= "people who don't care if they can pay for the damage they cause when they run into the rest of us) and tax scofflaws.

Re:Pay for what you buy, no problem. (4, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300574)

Plate scanning systems are just a fast way to do what repo folks have been doing for years.

But if too many uses for registration plates are found people with less to lose will just start making their own plates. Some of those people presumably have experience in the field anyway ;)

Like the film says (3, Funny)

BigFire (13822) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300488)

"The life of a repo man is always intense."

Big Business Will Bring Big Brother (4, Insightful)

weston (16146) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300496)

I've long said that we'll lose our privacy to business before we lose it to a totalitarian state. It's pretty obvious that under a laissez-faire system some parties will happily sell information about anyone to other parties public and private who are interested in being Big Brother for reasons of power or profit.

This is happening now with license plates. It's starting to happen with human image recognition, and will likely be pervasive in our lifetimes. It'll start with systems like this, it'll grow through systems in retail establishments -- some enterprising business will pitch them on the idea "Wouldn't it be great if you knew *who* was coming into your store? Let us set you up with a system that not only records and manages your video, but actually cross-references it with an image/identity database." They'll sell it to consumers, too: "Wouldn't it be great if you knew who was coming to your door? Who secondhand guests at your party are?" And now that we have social networks, it'll be even *easier* to bootstrap with a corpus of social tagged photos which are available to, say, anybody who sings up for the Facebook development platform. And of course, they'll eventually make a deal to share data with local, state, and federal governments. Or if that's technically illegal, with the contractors said government outsource photo surveillance functions to.

And you'll need one hell of a disguise something like a Philip Dick's scramble suit in order to move around society anonymously... if such a thing can actually disguise your identifying gesture and movement habits successfully. If you can come up with something that isn't clearly a disguise that would make people suspicious. If such a thing is even allowed by retailers and citizens who *like* knowing who's coming to their door. If they're not illegal in some way, whether by statute or sheer fact that even wearing one looks like probable cause for suspicion to the police.

Re:Big Business Will Bring Big Brother (2, Interesting)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300764)

Anything that can be legally done by a person can be legally done by a computer.

For example, when I walk into a small store the shop keeper may do the following; scan my face, match that face to my name, remember what I have purchased, greet me by name and suggest similar items and sale items. Just because some of those steps are done by machine does not bother me. Now if all that information was posted on the internet that would be a problem.

I have no assumption of privacy if I walk into a store that I have been to before; someone working there may, and hopefully will, recognize me (I like personalized service).

Your Argument is Why This *Will* Happen (1, Insightful)

weston (16146) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300886)

Not only are the incentives to collect and sell this information already present in the system, arguments such as yours will be convincing to a significant portion of the population and in the framework of the existing legal system. People might *say* they want privacy, but a lot of them aren't willing to pull on the other end of policy/rights/philosophy which are tension with it.

That's why I say this *will* happen. The only alternative is significant and nuanced new laws accompanied with public oversight. And there's simply no coherent philosophy, party, or leadership that's willing to push a robust public agenda in the United States. Even in the name of privacy.

Re:Big Business Will Bring Big Brother (4, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300874)

I've long said that we'll lose our privacy to business before we lose it to a totalitarian state.

And you'd be wrong, but not by much. We're losing our privacy because because both of those entities have been sleeping together. As Benito Mussolini pointed out:

Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power

That's where we're headed.

Re:Big Business Will Bring Big Brother (4, Interesting)

weston (16146) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300932)

And you'd be wrong, but not by much.

Though this is nitpicking, I have to object. Despite some serious erosion of privacy protections on the civil front over the last few decades, we're not really there: the State doesn't yet have the apparatus for mass-tracking for even telecom. They know they're technically forbidden to have a lot of this stuff, which is why they largely rely on large powerful private entities or agreements with foreign states for the go-to.

But this:

We're losing our privacy because because both of those entities have been sleeping together.

Is true enough indeed. And it gets worse over time because the amount of power in private hands keeps growing. And there's no other way to check private power other than with public power driven by large-scale civic participation. And we don't really do that anymore, or, if a lot of the recent anti-government populism is any indication, really believe at all in the idea of public power checking private power anymore. So it's down the path we go.

Re:Big Business Will Bring Big Brother (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#31301012)

Despite some serious erosion of privacy protections on the civil front over the last few decades, we're not really there

True, but we're both talking about a possible future. You're right, we're not there yet, but there are plenty of people in big government that would very much like us to be.

Use a Geiger Counter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31300514)

The easiest way is to track the alien in the trunk.

Re:Use a Geiger Counter (0, Troll)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300882)

The easiest way is to track the alien in the trunk.

What are you, some kind of racist? I know a number of Mexicans and I don't think any of them are radioactive.

Re:Use a Geiger Counter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31300992)

"Mexican" isn't a race. It's a nationality. One can't exhibit "racism" towards something that isn't even a race.

Not Private Information (1, Interesting)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300548)

From a legal standpoint there is nothing wrong with this. The fact that a vehicle with a certain license number is at a certain location is public information and there is no reasonable assumption of privacy. Anyone walking down the street can gather this information. The use of vehicles and tag scanners just makes it faster. If they were logging license numbers of vehicles in locked garages, private property not visible from the street, etc then there would be an issue as there is an assumption of privacy and laws (B&E, trespassing, etc) would have to be broken to obtain the information.

This service just centralizes what is already done by the parking authority of every major city; ever watch "Parking Wars"? All it does is allows more organizations access to the same database of vehicle locations.

Who is able to obtain this information is a different story. Either by regulation or industry standard this information should only be given to organizations who have a legitimate need for it; repo, law enforcement, etc. It should not be given to every person who wants to track someone else. Stalking is a concern and should be addressed.

The use of public information and technology to catch deadbeats and lawbreakers is not a bad thing.

from a legal standpoint nothing is wrong (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31300674)

and from a privacy standpoint that means the law itself is in need of an update.

You can start with "corporations are not people" and therefore the freedoms we protect for humans don't apply to corporations except when we want them to. Any time corporations start doing stuff against the public interest, we can ban it, even if it's something we're free to do as individuals.

And sure, the individuals involved can keep doing that stuff--but then they lose the liability protection that led them to assemble into corporations they way they are now.

Re:Not Private Information (3, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300846)


The use of public information and technology to catch deadbeats and lawbreakers is not a bad thing.

How about other "bad" people? My new Bar Watcher service will tell you if your loved one is at one of 30 local area bars. For only $10 a search we'll give you time, location, and duration. For an annual subscription of only $100 we'll send you a text message every time we see your loved ones car (or one of his friends cars) at the local bars. Sign up now! *

We also have our gamblers search! Same service, for all the local Casinos!

*(service not available for elected officials, law enforcement officers, or judges by state law)

Re:Not Private Information (3, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300898)

From a legal standpoint there is nothing wrong with this.

Well, its about damn time that the legal standpoint changed. Technology has changed and the laws need to catch up. At one point we didn't even have license plates, the law changed because there was a need for something like them and at the time the balance of pros versus cons tilted towards the pro side. New technology has changed that balance towards the con side and the law needs to change with it.

Re:Not Private Information (1)

cetialphav (246516) | more than 4 years ago | (#31301140)

The question, though, is just how should the law be changed. We can't just prohibit the collection of data in general. We can't just prohibit the selling of collections of data. Things like HIPAA protect medical records. Should we have individual laws that target particular types of data as illegal to distribute? That seems very complex and cumbersome to me.

I think there are few people who are unconcerned with the direction that these data collections are taking us. It is easy to see how this can be abused. But it is also true that the law currently has no problem with this. It is one thing to recognize a problem, but it is something else entirely to come up with a generalized law that prevents the problem without causing unintended damage.

Re:Not Private Information (2, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300982)

From a legal standpoint there is nothing wrong with this.

There isn't? I think we need some actual legal advice here.

The use of vehicles and tag scanners just makes it faster.

Which is problematic in itself.

All it does is allows more organizations access to the same database of vehicle locations.

Even more of a problem. Data is power in the modern world, and any time power is concentrated sufficiently it becomes a liability. You need look no further than Experian, Equifax and Transunion to realize just how dangerous this can be. Hell, a couple of credit cards I've owned since the Internet went public have suffered security breaches, and I got hit with several thousand dollars in charges. They took them off ... and then six months later put them back after an investigation proved that I'd activated a new account from a phone number and address in a country that I've never visited much less lived in. I had to pay my attorney to adjust their attitude. Consequently, it won't matter much to the victim of a crime (or government abuse) facilitated by this database. They're still screwed.

We need to take a very different approach to data aggregation in general. You shouldn't get to collect squat about us unless you can prove you need it. If you don't, you don't store it. The fact that it makes a civil servant's job easier is not, in and of itself, sufficient reason to permit this kind of activity. That's especially true when the private sector gets involved. I'll give you an example: in my state, they're putting in red light cams everywhere (not quite as bad as London, maybe, but they're trying hard.) These cameras are used to "enhance revenue" (political-speak for "issue lots more tickets for stuff that was never ticketed before and often isn't illegal anyway.") That's bad enough, but in many towns the companies that build them are given a direct percentage of the take. The more cameras they put in, the more money they make (ha, talk about corporatism at work) and the data they collect is often sold to other companies for additional profit. I see this plate-scanning effort going exactly the same way.

Regulation means nothing. If that information has been collected, and somebody wants it bad enough, believe me it will be made available. That's just life in the big city. The best solution is not to collect it at all. And furthermore, even if no-one tries to acquire a public records database through "legitimate" means, there are plenty of illegitimate ways once it's online. I've been down that road, and I don't trust government or the private sector to be willing or able to protect my information. It's not theirs, it's mine, and both government and the private sector have demonstrated (repeatedly) that they cannot be trusted to provide adequate security. Apparently, securing personal information is just not cost effective.

You really think government oversight HELPS?!?!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31300554)

Remember all the screaming when Booosh!!! and the EEEVIL Rethuglicans kept passing extensions to the Patriot Act?

Guess what?

IT'S STILL HAPPENING! [washingtonpost.com]

Yeah, putting something like this new industry under the control of THAT goverment is going the HELP our privacy. Crap, that government would just figure out a new way to shake down the companies for free trips to warm places [nytimes.com] .

What's the big deal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31300556)

Who cares if people know where your car is? Sure, it's an "invasion of privacy", but what's the big deal?

Because "government oversight" ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31300614)

... never leads to abuse of privacy rights or anything.

Reeepo Maaan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31300624)

Now you could run, you could hide... You could try to. But he always has a way of finding you.
Reeepo Maaan! Reeepo Maaan!

I wonder... (1)

marciot (598356) | more than 4 years ago | (#31300876)

...if it is legal to mount your license plate upside down -- and whether it would fool such systems.

emilio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31301022)

Repo mans always intense

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