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Plate Readers Abound in DC Area, With Little Regard For Privacy

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the hey-I-imagined-it dept.

Government 268

schwit1 writes "More than 250 cameras in Washington D.C. and its suburbs scan license plates in real time. It's a program that's quietly expanded beyond what anyone had imagined even a few years ago. Some jurisdictions store the information in a large networked database; others retain it only in the memory of each individual reader's computer, then delete it after several weeks as new data overwrite it. A George Mason University study last year found that 37 percent of large police agencies in the United States now use license plate reader technology and that a significant number of other agencies planned to have it by the end of 2011. But the survey found that fewer than 30 percent of the agencies using the tool had researched any legal implications. With virtually no public debate, police agencies have begun storing the information from the cameras, building databases that document the travels of millions of vehicles."

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268 comments

A sad world. (5, Insightful)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 2 years ago | (#38122980)

Where I live, there have always been plate readers.
We call them 'Sir'.
They register plates that seem suspicious to them and store them in little black notebooks that they keep 'til retirement, half a century sometimes. They work only 8 hours a day and want wages, uniforms, typing machines, unions, sick time, vacations, retirement money and other stuff the new ones don't need.
The new ones are much cheaper for us taxpayers.
They also know every fucking stolen car's plate by heart and can't be bribed by a doughnut.
When we want to be anonymous, we walk or use a bike and not a car which have had license plates to identify them since the last 100 years.
I guess that this new stuff is definitely eroding the right to drive a car in public that is registered as stolen, used in a robbery, kidnapping or murder.
We can't even use stolen money anymore, since scanning money counting machines were invented.
Even jewellery owners have digital photos of their stolen stuff online in seconds.
It's a hard world for criminals.

Re:A sad world. (5, Insightful)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123042)

It's a great time for criminals. Of course, now we tend to call them 'corporations'.

Re:A sad world. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123150)

I call them "vice presidents". There's something about reaching that level of management that strips away all moral sense.

Re:A sad world. (4, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123692)

It's called "getting squeezed by the board of directors and the shareholders to deliver maximum profit, and having to duke it out in the market with several other businesses whose management has the same obligation"

A corporation's moral woes are merely the extension of the greed of dispassionate shareholders that see fit to only care about the almighty dollar while being comfortably insulated from the gory details of how that money is "earned".

And in a dog eat dog world where companies are ready to cut each other's throats to get ahead, anyone who ties to be nice and ethical will simply not survive.

I would opine that vice presidency doesn't so much strip away your moral sense as filter out those who have it.

Just like trying to be a politician will weed out happy horseshit folks who fail to pass the corporate kiss-ass test from special interests.

Re:A sad world. (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123162)

That's a nihilistic negative attitude. The world is better with street thugs. Enjoy it instead of whining about something else. There always be something else that is not fixed.

Re:A sad world. (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123168)

Correction: better with FEWER street thugs

Re:A sad world. (3, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123762)

Correction: better with FEWER street thugs

I'm not so sure.

I'd rather have 1000 street thugs than one street thug who can be in 1000000 places at once.

Re:A sad world. (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123278)

Yes, but is the world better with fewer street thugs AND more corporate crime (which is what GP implied).
Which of these two is the greater evil?

Re:A sad world. (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123770)

But do the cameras increase corporate crime? If not, how is that not a red herring?

Re:A sad world. (3, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123644)

Actually, when they're corporations they are no longer called criminals.

Doing wrong and breaking the law are two very different things now.

Remember that the one who has the gold gets to *make* the rules, not merely get away with breaking them.

Re:A sad world. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123074)

Want to hear something funny? Where I live we have the right to travel freely, a right to privacy, a right to be secure in our papers and person, and a right to be presumed innocent.

Re:A sad world. (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123082)

Where do you live?

Re:A sad world. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123112)

Not the US, that's for sure.

Re:A sad world. (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123372)

Then I'll assume you don't run a license plate at all.

Re:A sad world. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123094)

+1 to this. People need to get over this. It's no different than a cop punching your plate in on every corner. It doesn't erode your privacy any more just because these are cheaper and more efficient.

In fact as a citizen I'm pleased to know if my car is stolen it will be found faster.

Re:A sad world. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123246)

In fact as a citizen I'm pleased to know if my car is stolen it will be found faster.

Then you will be disappointed to learn that plate-reading cameras do nothing to achieve that goal. If the police aren't being total jerks, they might forward you some pictures of your ride just before its end.

Re:A sad world. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123292)

Of course the cop can hold several tens of thousands of those plate numbers in his head and anyone from a fellow cop to an advertising agency can access those plate numbers with just a keystroke. Oh and those plate numbers can be copied from cop to cop as you drive around so the advertising agency that paid the cop that had his budget cut can target ads to you. Oh and the retired cop can search his former fellow cops with a keystroke and when the former cop doesn't remember the plate number correctly and follows the wrong car and you get arrested you'll be pleased right!

What a fool, as it is many cops are abusing their authority and you want to give the bullies even more tools?

Re:A sad world. (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123528)

It doesn't erode your privacy any more just because these are cheaper and more efficient.

1+1=1

Re:A sad world. (1)

DeathToBill (601486) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123098)

You, sir, get a gold star. I only wish I could make it mod points, but I see others have got there first.

Re:A sad world. (5, Informative)

zebidee (40430) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123110)

The problem isn't the state doing this tracking - it's private corporations. Gas stations in the UK perform number plate recognition in order to avoid "drive-offs." But if you're then using your store loyalty card with your gas purchase then they've tied your number plate to your purchase history/patterns. On top of that the store can easily access the DVLA records [dailymail.co.uk] [dailymail.co.uk].

In the UK we also have a system called TrafficMaster [trafficmaster.co.uk] [trafficmaster.co.uk] which analyses traffic flow for their satnav services. There is, however, nothing to prevent them working with the stores to cross-reference number-plates against traffic flow. So now the store can find out exactly where you're driving as well.

That kind of information is something I never signed up for & one of the reasons I'll never have a store loyalty card.

Re:A sad world. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123332)

The problem isn't the state doing this tracking - it's private corporations.

While you are right to be concerned about private parties monitoring your movements, your lack of concern about the state is puzzling. You do realize that most mass crimes in the 20th century were committed by governments, right?

Re:A sad world. (1, Informative)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123742)

Governments, however, are bound by the 4th amendment.

Consider, for example, the protection afforded letters handled by the postal system.

If someone working for UPS cracks open a parcel, it's a civilian matter involving breach of contract and theft.

If someone working for the USPS cracks open a letter (without a warrant), it's an illegal search and seizure.

Re:A sad world. (4, Insightful)

Inda (580031) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123432)

In the UK...

We also have police sat in cars with ANPR (Automatic number plate recognition). Their buddy will sit in another car 500m down the road.

We also have places like Bath and Bristol where all entrances and exits have ANPR. If you drive in one of these cities, make sure you are fully legal. If the camera spots you, you'll get pulled over further down the road.

We also have them in London. Drive into London, make sure you pay your fee, or expect a nasty letter.

The DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) also have mobile cameras. Expect a letter and fine if you drive past one and you don't have car tax.

The police also have ANPR facing forward in their cars. If they drive pass you, and you are not legal, expect to be pulled over and fined. Even if you are parked, expect the fine.

I welcome all the above. If you want to drive your car on the road in the UK, make sure you've fucking paid like the rest of us.

Re:A sad world. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123436)

There is, however, nothing to prevent them working with the stores to cross-reference number-plates against traffic flow.

Yes, there is. It's called the Data Protection Act 1998, and the Information Commissioner's Office. It doesn't have much teeth, but it's not "nothing".

Re:A sad world. (1, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123710)

In theory you'd expect competition to weed out consumer unfriendly attitudes like this.

In practice, raping the consumer's information is so profitable that nobody in their right mind would fail to do it.

If everyone who can provide you an essential service refuses to give it to you unless you sell your soul, your only choices are cough up the ghost or go without.

Re:A sad world. (0)

fast turtle (1118037) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123914)

The only problem with selling my soul is I already did that and they now have to supena the Devil himself into court to find out why they can't have it instead.

Re:A sad world. (2, Insightful)

dave420 (699308) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123910)

The Data Protection Act would have a *lot* to say about that. The amount of data you would be able to request from said companies would bring them to their knees if even a handful of people requested it.

Re:A sad world. (2, Insightful)

dominious (1077089) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123118)

I was going to mod insightful but I want to add to that:
Dear /. reader,
Why do you have a plate on your car in the first place? It's an identification number... Yes, to identify you in case it's needed by the police or by anyone. Don't like it? Don't use a car then. What? Privacy? What do you mean exactly? Also, you expect the police to ask for public debate? Yes because the public knows better the job of the police than the police itself. Get over it. You live in a crowed city, and you should follow the rules of the system or get out.

Re:A sad world. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123200)

You live in a crowed city

Caw! Caw! This city be crowed! Caw!

Re:A sad world. (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123288)

You live in a crowed city, and you should follow the rules of the system or get out.

I know it is a foreign concept to most Americans, but...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy [wikipedia.org]

Yes because the public knows better the job of the police than the police itself

The Wikipedia articles just abound this morning:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_servants [wikipedia.org]

Yes, the police serve the public, and that means that if the public feels that some aspect of police work is unacceptable then the police must not do it -- even if it is helpful in catching criminals. These days we have militarized police forces and vast, ever-expanding police power and so it is easy to forget that the police are there to serve the public. It is cruelly ironic that one of the most famous police forces in the country has the motto, "To protect and to serve."

Re:A sad world. (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123688)

Why do you have a plate on your car in the first place? It's an identification number... Yes, to identify you in case it's needed by the police or by anyone. Don't like it? Don't use a car then.

Except we have around 6 decades or so in which this was a passive means of identification.

Automatically scanning and recording of these things is a relatively new development, and the technology is outpacing the the law and understanding of how best to treat this.

Some might argue that in the US, automatic plate identification and tracking is creeping a little close to the bounds of the 4th amendment [wikipedia.org] in that there is no need for probably cause or judicial oversight.

I'm glad that you're embracing a surveillance society and think we all need to as well ... but unfortunately, some of this automated technologies is somewhat eroding actual rights entrenched in both law and custom.

From a certain perspective, it's hard not to see 1984 and Brave New World hurtling towards us as likely outcomes instead of just speculative fiction. Because law enforcement is charging ahead with these things under the assumption they can do anything they want, and it can take literally years to get these matters settled by the courts, at which point an awful lot of damage can have already been done.

Re:A sad world. (1)

Haxagon (2454432) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123858)

Yes because the public knows better the job of the police than the police itself. Get over it. You live in a crowed city, and you should follow the rules of the system or get out.

Yeah, it's not like the system of government or policing is supposed to be for the people or anything crazy like that.

Re:A sad world. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123138)

We call them 'Sir'.

Do NOT call police officers "sir"!!! YOU are sir to THEM!!!

What is with you fools, bending over for the hot prick of authority? Cripes!

Re:A sad world. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123290)

Dur dur fight man. Antagonize public servants! Dur dur now wheres my welfare check.

Re:A sad world. (3, Insightful)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123320)

In the better world, you and they are both sir - mutual respect, at least until proven otherwise. Thus the world avoids unnecessary conflict. It works that way most of the time, in several places I've lived.

Re:A sad world. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123208)

You're making the assumption a stolen plate has been reported. As someone on the end of this, I can tell you that you might not notice your plate has gone for sometime, meanwhile your plate is on the back of a similar looking car doing a ram-raid. Here in FL, we only have plates on the rear of the car, and it may surprise you to learn we don't walk around the car examining everything each time we get behind the wheel. Heck, I hardly ever see the back of my car.

Re:A sad world. (4, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123224)

It's a hard world for criminals.

Except for any criminals who are using these plate scanners. Do you think the people responsible for finding cars using this system is above being bribed? What system of accountability is in place to prevent abuses? How would people even know if they were being illegally tracked by this system?

The problem is not that the system might be used to catch criminals, it is that it almost certainly will be used to track innocent people, to avoid constitutional restrictions, and to make possible the enforcement of an even larger set of laws (as if we do not have an absurdly large and complex legal system as is).

Re:A sad world. (2)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123350)

Where I live, there have always been plate readers. [...] It's a hard world for criminals.

Thats besides the point.
Nobody is arguing that ubiquitous camera surveilance doesn't help bring criminals to justice or that it shouldn't.
The (perceived) problem is in the "colateral damage"; how does it affect law abiding citizens and can (and therefore "will") it be used for less than noble purposes?

Re:A sad world. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123412)

Where I live, there have always been plate readers. We call them 'Sir'. They register plates that seem suspicious to them and store them in little black notebooks that they keep 'til retirement, half a century sometimes. They work only 8 hours a day and want wages, uniforms, typing machines, unions, sick time, vacations, retirement money and other stuff the new ones don't need.

I agree with your sentiment here, but you minimize the limitations imposed by the very fact that the plate reader is human. That human needs to prioritize based on experience and intuition. That person won't also have the ability to follow every single license plate from camera to camera and build an in depth database of their entire life based around their travel. Despite what the government wants you to think, we all aren't criminals and privacy isn't something to discarded on the altar of technological progress. All of us slashdotters have seen plenty of articles on the overwhelmingly accurate profile that can be constructed from simple and mundane information when collected in bulk on a single target.

When we want to be anonymous, we walk or use a bike and not a car which have had license plates to identify them since the last 100 years.

Facial recognition software is getting VERY good; really, the only thing missing is the proper database infrastructure to manage the sheer volume of information. What I mean is that when searching, for example, fingerprints you don't submit a fingerprint and then pattern match again the ENTIRE database, you break the database into families of similar profiles. Pattern matching against the entire database produces inaccuracies from too much data almost in the same way that too little information does. I'm not trying to go off on a tangent with this part of my response, but rather pointing out that your argument about being able to remain anonymous by choice is far from true.
        Now we could always say if you are innocent you have nothing to hide; well, I remember a a few years back hearing a parody pizza ordering call where the caller wanted to order a pepperoni pizza but the operator saw in his file that he has high cholesterol, so if he wanted to waive his right to health care and pay an additional waiver fee she'd be happy to accommodate his order. What I am trying to point out here is that discarding the right to privacy basically gives policy makers total control over our information. Since they are policy makers, well, they'll make policy out of it won't they. This may be a bit of an over dramatization, but I am just getting absolutely sick of people having no problem whatsoever with information en masse about the non-criminal public. This country was founded on the principles of freedom. If you think someone is a criminal, fine, go for broke, USE DUE PROCESS and start ball rolling with all the wonderful technology we do have. And no, I don't subscribe to the idea that due process means a blank check a priori - I consider due process to mean - Hey judge, there is this SPECIFIC person I have some suspicions about, here are my reasons (aka evidence), will you sign this for me?

begin counter rants in 3... 2...

Re:A sad world. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123532)

Wow! ... just crawled out from under your rock I see. You really haven't been keeping up with this whole 'erosion of rights' thing now have you? Ok, here's something to help you along. Much like once you know that 1 + 1 = 2, you figure out that 1 + 2 = 3; rights are taken away for seemingly legitimate purposes and then later on bad guy/girl comes along and uses information for nefarious purpose. Sorry, 'nefarious' means 'bad'. Now tell all your friends .. OK?

Re:A sad world. (1, Flamebait)

Renraku (518261) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123536)

But you see, it won't stop with only being used against criminals. Most people can agree that less crime is a good thing, and finding stolen cars is good too, since they often aren't recovered. Today it will be used to find stolen license plates. Tomorrow it will be used to find expired tags and automatically ticket the owner. Next week it will be to get a list of suspects in an area who may or may not have robbed a convenience store three blocks away. Next month it will be used to see who is driving around the bad part of town at late hours.

Then one day, far down the road, maybe when you've posted something controversial in one of these threads, you just might get a visit. They'll uncap the scrolls and read a rough review of your life, asking you questions, telling you that if you've done nothing wrong then you have nothing to hide. We know you were at that protest last month.

See, I could get behind this technology if and only if the plates were only checked to see if they were stolen or legit, with no data being kept unless the plate was flagged for some reason. But it won't be. They'll be able to data mine your driving habits for the past year, with every sighting of your plate being a dot on the map. But when your ex-wife gets murdered in a robbery across town, the evidence that you weren't anywhere close won't be released or brought to court to provide an alibi for you.

Re:A sad world. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123584)

> When we want to be anonymous, we walk or use a bike and not a car which have had license plates to identify them since the last 100 years.

You can't walk around without being on a CCTV anymore.

Re:A sad world. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123618)

So because it is cheaper for taxpayers (and don't forget the government too... have your taxes gone down?) it must be a good thing?

We have discussed this before and I was impressed by comments that discussed how we need to change our idea of privacy as our ability to track, store, and share data changes. I compare it to taking naked pics of your gf... 10 years ago you worried about the drug store clerk seeing her boobs. Now you have to worry that it gets on 4chan and stays there forever. (okay, so really she is the one worried... but you get the point). As data becomes permanent we have to change our definition of privacy.

Of course I do like your "if you aren't doing anything wrong..." argument. Would you mind posting your minute by minute whearabouts to /.? What about your kid and wife? Ederly Mom and Dad? Nobody's doing anything wrong... right?

duh (4, Funny)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 2 years ago | (#38122996)

they can't land the black robot helicopter on your car if they don't know where you are.

Will be interesting to see how the 4th Am. issues (5, Informative)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123030)

shake out.

Right now the Supreme Court is considering a case as to whether GPS monitoring of a car constitutes a search in the 4th Amendment sense, i.e. requiring probable cause or a warrant. This is important because one of the key car surveillance cases of the 20th century (Knotts v. United States) upheld beeper surveillance of cars but included dicta stating that "dragnet surveillance" could be debated by the court as a separate matter.

I am currently hopeful that pervasive and intrusive surveillance methods like this will be struck down by the courts, as the third circuit has already expressed doubts regarding historic cell site location data (case name: "In the matter of the application of the United States for an Order directing the provider of a communications service to disclose records to the government," third circuit, 2010). The Third Circuit more or left let magistrate judges make that determinations for themselves.

Since when (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123114)

Since when has the fourth amendment stood in the way of raking more cash through the hands of the elite at the top? The bigger the budget, the better positioned they are to exploit that cash flow for personal gain.

Did I just imply that the entire reason all this "security" exists is simply to make the business of government more lucrative for those who control it? You're damn right I did. Power is merely a stepping stone to the real goal: money.

Re:Since when (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123234)

Since when has the fourth amendment stood in the way of raking more cash through the hands of the elite at the top? The bigger the budget, the better positioned they are to exploit that cash flow for personal gain.

Did I just imply that the entire reason all this "security" exists is simply to make the business of government more lucrative for those who control it? You're damn right I did. Power is merely a stepping stone to the real goal: money.

Your absolutely correct any believing otherwise or believing police actual do some helping in this country should "get out" for being so stupid. No wonder everyone claims Americans are dumb look at some of these comments about our authority wanting to help us. Stupid Americans.

Re:Will be interesting to see how the 4th Am. issu (4, Informative)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123358)

Right now the Supreme Court is considering a case as to whether GPS monitoring of a car constitutes a search in the 4th Amendment sense, i.e. requiring probable cause or a warrant.>

That is a very different situation in the legal sense. GPS monitoring requires the authorities to attach a device to your car - so they must trespass onto your private property, and leave the device on your private property. They also track you whether you are on public or private property. Their use will, hopefully, be found to be "unreasonable search and seizure".

Cameras, on the other hand, do not trespass at all - they only record from a public location what is happening on public property. Their use in the UK is certainly settled case law; their use in the USA is pretty much settled law as well.

Re:Will be interesting to see how the 4th Am. issu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123622)

Well, technically, license plates belong to the state that issued them, not the owner of the car. Plus, they scan the plate on public roads where anyone could see them.

Obviously, any tech (especially anything related to databases and recognition) can be abused but, for what it's worth, I actually know some of the cops who originally helped develop the first program and it was solely to look for cars that had been reported stolen. Things like LoJack will help those who can afford it, but this was supposed to help increase the likelihood of all car-theft victims getting their vehicles back.

Re:Will be interesting to see how the 4th Am. issu (1)

OhHellWithIt (756826) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123888)

If anything, this article bolsters the argument that attaching a GPS tracking device to someone's car should require a warrant. Why on earth do they need a GPS when the tags are likely already in a database somewhere?

GPS tracking device (1)

firex726 (1188453) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123036)

Hell, lets just throw a GPS tracking device in every car.

That way we can make the buyer of the car pay for it, and redirect that tax money to other programs. /s

Why bother when we can just track your phone? (1)

TheRealSteveDallas (2505582) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123068)

Make sure to update all your personal info on FB too so we don't have to work too hard to identify your less vocal friends.

Get used to it boys... (3)

Chelmet (1273754) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123056)

...and welcome to the UK.

So what? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123060)

It is much quicker tracking down a stolen car and cutting down on uninsured vehicles using numberplate cameras than relying on manpower. We have had ANPR cameras all over the UK for years already. This story seems to pop up every now and again.

Re:So what? (5, Insightful)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123104)

Obviously this information is only used to prevent car theft because the car thieves will never think to switch plates. It couldn't have any other use.

Re:So what? (4, Insightful)

Custard Horse (1527495) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123316)

Professional criminals will get around most security measures. Most criminals are not professional and do not have the wherewithal to switch plates due to either crass stupidity or lack or resources.

Re:So what? (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123356)

"Obviously this information is only used to prevent car theft because the car thieves will never think to switch plates. It couldn't have any other use."

ANPR can also (no shit) track PLATES listed as stolen. If you steal a plate to install on your lawfully-owned auto, ANPR can detect that too.

Expanding police power (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123400)

In the United States many police services, especially in large cities, meet the definition of a paramilitary force. The last thing we need to have is more police power.

To put it another way, the more effective the police are at enforcing the law, the more laws wind up being passed. We have so many laws on the books right now that it is hard for anyone to know whether or not they are actually guilty of some violation. Every new tool the police obtain is a tool that will be used to enforce more oppressive laws and ruin more innocent lives. Unless the deployment of these scanners is coupled with a wave of repeals and legal reforms, these scanners will wind up being another step down the road to tyranny.

Panopticon (5, Insightful)

Phoenix666 (184391) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123064)

The thing about a real panopticon is that every node can see every other node.

Somebody needs to tag all the cop, govt, and elected officials' cars and keep a public database of their movements so that the citizenry can keep exact track of what they're doing. Their home addresses, where their kids go to school, medical records, and bank account information should also be posted.

Let's show them where this road they're on ultimately leads.

Re:Panopticon (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123166)

mod this up someone.

Re:Panopticon (1)

qbast (1265706) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123314)

This would be stalking. Cattle and its herders are under different law after all.

Re:Panopticon (1)

Eternal Vigilance (573501) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123462)

This would be stalking. Cattle and its herders are under different law after all.

I feel like they're tracking my every moove....

Re:Panopticon (3, Insightful)

pentalive (449155) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123880)

Nice Idea, the watchers would never let it happen.

BTW the watched in a panopticon don't get to watch as well. "The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether or not they are being watched."(Wikipeda)

I thinks this comes under the heading of "Whatever rule you make should apply equally to all people, including you"

ANPR is old news (2)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123070)

...IMHO it does nothing to promote safety, it's a revenue collection aid, nothing more.

Re:ANPR is old news (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123142)

Yeah in the UK a bunch of drive throughs like McD use it to check you havent parked up and gone shopping. They anpr your plate in and outbound and if greater than a signposted time has elasped they send you a ticket using the govenment database to get your details.

Whilst not legally enforceable most people pay up

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/watchdog/2010/04/mcdonalds_parking.html

excert below

They usually allow free parking for between 60 and 75 minutes and no return within 90 to 120 minutes.

If you break these strict conditions, your meal could be an unhappy one as Richard Kerr discovered.

On the way to collect his mum from Stansted Airport, Richard picked up a quarter pounder with cheese from McDonalds. When he collected his Mum, she was hungry so they returned to the restaurant about half an hour later.

Charges for repeat custom
Two weeks later, Richard received a demand to pay charges from Met Parking. He had spent a total of just 47 minutes on site but because he had left and then returned within the forbidden 90 minutes, his car was clocked by the camera and he was served a parking charge.

I don't like ALPR (1)

stomv (80392) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123658)

but the claim that it's merely a revenue collection aid is bogus.

ALPR does a remarkable job of finding autos for which the owner has an outstanding warrant. It's usually pretty minor stuff, but not always. ALPR flags an auto with a warrant, the police officer takes notice. Obviously not every ALPR is located on a police vehicle and not every car flagged is being driven by the person for which there is an outstanding warrant.

Still, some of the time, it is used to find persons with outstanding warrants, and that is a very real, positive public safety and justice tool. We can argue if the benefits are worth the general loss of privacy (including tracking of location), but to claim that it does "nothing to promote safety" is flat wrong.

Re:I don't like ALPR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123902)

i see....so...

i have a ticket from 2 and a half years ago and i am unable to take care of this matter due to financial reasons. I don't fancy going to jail and serving time for the ticket as the local authorities around here decided it was an awesome idea to double-dip: they receive taxpayer money for the housing and care of inmates, and yet, they charge inmates a daily fee for their time incarcerated. another situation i am not able to meet financially. and apparently, if i don't pay that bill for any incarceration time, they CAN arrest me AGAIN and lock me up until that bill is paid....which ironically, is costing you more money to be incarcerated again.

in reality, all we'll end up with is folks with financial difficulties and hardships filling the jails around here, racking up even further financial hardshiop courtesy of the county government. oh, and that guy that's a real threat: they won't catch him in a car that belongs to him, if they catch him in a car at all.

no, these cameras aren't for safety. these cameras are for revenue generation. profits before justice and all that.

my route looks like this (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123076)

http://vimeo.com/28950423 [vimeo.com] (jump to circa 5:50)

Re:my route looks like this (1)

Garybaldy (1233166) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123106)

Ah yes Vimeo, The video player that never "plays".

Plain View (0)

Jdodge99 (695972) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123078)

The plates are in plain view. As the first poster indicated, they could sit a cop on every corner and note down every plate. I can't think of any reasonable argument for this requiring a warrant. Forcing my ISP to cough up data on me, or planting a GPS tracker on my car -- or even asking those "nice folks" at onstar to spy on me (I don't, and won't have an onstar equipped vehicle) -- THAT should require a warrant.

Re:Plain View (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123198)

Indeed, the problem is not the camera's catching criminals.

The problem is certain agencies throwing this data in huge data bases and analysing them for many other things that are out of the public's control.

--
Teun

Re:Plain View (4, Insightful)

rainsford (803085) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123568)

Except the cops aren't going to put a cop of every corner and write down every plate because it would be way too manpower intensive. And people know that, so they have a reasonable expectation that their movements won't be tracked by the police without any suspicion of wrongdoing. Technology makes casual surveillance so much easier that the cops can and will track your every move in public even if they have absolutely no reason to do so. In other words, technology isn't simply the next generation of something that police are already doing, it allows a much different surveillance approach that is more invasive than what was practical before. The law needs to control that kind of thing in a way that simply wasn't necessary before.

It's a good example... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123116)

... of the sort of choices we have to make, now that storing things indefinitely is cheap. Do we want the panopticon? Do we rather live without constant oversight with the implication that some law-transgressors will remain uncaught? Given how we have laws impeding law enforcement, the choice ought to be a no-brainer. Yet even here people have trouble with the indications, apparently believing that if only you make sure you're nice and obedient and squeaky clean all the time, you cannot accidentally fall afoul of the law.

Personally, I draw the line at storing, if you must deploy automated readers. Let them match against lists of known-stolen plates and flag occurrences for immediate action, perhaps store for later reference if immediate action is untenable. But don't go keep tabs on things that reasonably are to be taken as being okay. There's no need to store where every soccer mom has been, so don't. That is a basic privacy principle, even if not seeing everything means you miss things you didn't know yet were out of kilter when you were seeing them. For that sort of thing we should probably reserve for human police officers. Not because the machines aren't better, but because at the end of the day society is about people, not about turning them into obedient little automatons.

Think about it. What do you really want?

Re:It's a good example... (1)

FBeans (2201802) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123206)

I think the real problem here is the "fewer than 30 percent of the agencies using the tool had researched any legal implications." There has been no formal consideration of storing of "personal" / "private" data. In this case I think that a little common sense shows that it's not a big issue for drivers, if one at all. On the other hand, as a member of that state I would expect to know what data my authorties are obtaining and storing, and how they intend to use it. There are hundreds of "privacy" cases like this popping up all over the world. The most important thing in my opinion, is that the people obtaining the data do so according to the laws, i.e. Data Protection Act ( I assume there is a US equivilant). This way, when someone "hacks" the stupidly insecure databases and gets a bunch of our information the authorties can inform us, and remind us that they are within the law, and then they can sleep at night. Which is important!!!

There is something good in everything (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123136)

Replace tag numbers and locations with random ids and make it open for researchers.

Re:There is something good in everything (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123394)

Make sure to also randomize timestamps and camera locations, otherwise it would still be relatively easy to track and identify individuals.
But then what good is the data to researchers?

Re:There is something good in everything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123416)

This car seems to leave and arrive at the same 2 places all the time. Let's assume they live at one. Work at the other. Hey look, now you can stalk them, or know when they aren't home. Nothing could go wrong...

Anyone know if this is possible (1)

dew-genen-ny (617738) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123148)

Using generic webcam type parts and open source software? Perhaps we should build an open system that anyone can log plate captures to....to be honest some of the douche bags that drive up my street way too fast could do with being shopped, replete with photo and license plate details....

Re:Anyone know if this is possible (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123704)

You need high resolution cameras, or some system for locating license plates, a tracker, and a zoom lens. It ends up being quite expensive per node.

And yet ... (5, Insightful)

ubrgeek (679399) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123156)

âoeIf youâ(TM)re not doing anything wrong, youâ(TM)re not driving a stolen car, youâ(TM)re not committing a crime,â Alessi said, âoethen you donâ(TM)t have anything to worry about.â

Then officer, you're OK with my recording your making a traffic stop? Or how you choose to break up peaceful protestors? I mean, if you're following your agency's official rules, there should be no problem, right?

Use it as an alibi? (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123186)

Is it possible to use these photo's as an alibi that you weren't someplace else? A clear cut example: A car with my license plate is caught stealing (and it's the same kind of busted up blue Opel Astra stationwagon, since anyone can get that data nowadays). My car is pictured 10 minutes later 100 kilometers (62 miles) away. Will I get a ticket? Can I use the picture to prove there is at least something terrebly wrong?

Re:Use it as an alibi? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123226)

You get another ticket for speeding.

Re:Use it as an alibi? (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123430)

Is there some reason to think that the public will have access to these records?

Re:Use it as an alibi? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123450)

No, the picture of you being 100 km away proves nothing. However, your ownership of the blue Opel Astra will be taken into consideration at sentencing.

Washington DC has a chronic crime problem (5, Insightful)

grumling (94709) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123202)

Why is it when I read something about DC's police force it's some new high tech tool, or a SWAT type tactic, or some other major program to reduce crime? And why is it that it never seems to even make a dent? Every time I've been to DC one of the most noticeable features is the sheer number of police cars, I'm just talking about DC metro cops, that are everywhere. Never mind all the Park Service police, black SUVs, and other law enforcement officials.

How about get rid of the toys and get cops to start walking the beat? Let them get to know the people they're arresting and maybe be a good influence in the neighborhoods during the day, and just maybe you'll see crime drop at night.

Oh, and let people carry. Nothing says "I'm armed and dangerous" like a Glock 9mm on the hip.

Re:Washington DC has a chronic crime problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123276)

Congress?

Re:Washington DC has a chronic crime problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123678)

too much common sense in your post grumling.

The debate needs to be about HOW it is used (1)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123210)

The fact is that the technology exists. Its a BAD idea, but someone is going to do it. The thing we need to establish are the ground rules. Either the data should be sealed and accessible only with a court order, records should not be kept in the first place, or the data should simply be in the open (after all if the argument is you're in public then it is simply public information). Having discussed this with people involved in some of these programs it's pretty clear that different law enforcement agencies ARE right now using this data to 'coordinate'. Nobody will say exactly how this happens, but they ARE tracking people right now. Clearly if the data exists this kind of thing is going to happen. Again, the wise thing to do is establish comprehensive rules and make sure they are audited and enforced rather than debating whether or not the activity is going to happen in the first place since that's already a done deal and will simply happen covertly if it isn't happening overtly.

Google wifi mapping (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123240)

What's the difference between this and Google mapping wifi? In one case people are broadcasting on 2.5 and 5GHz, in another they are broadcasting on 650 - 240nm. (~ 470THz to 1000THz)

If you don't want people recording your license plate, maybe you should encrypt it. (:-)

Re:Google wifi mapping (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123496)

Get a vanity plate with _NOTRACK on it!

_nomap (1)

srussia (884021) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123596)

If you don't want people recording your license plate, maybe you should encrypt it. (:-)

Hah! And they laughed at me when I got vanity plates saying "_nomap"

Great Idea and Program (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123392)

Saves time and effort, this is a great overall idea.

DC isn't the only place (1)

Baloo Uriza (1582831) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123512)

Ever take the E 470 in Colorado? Your plates have been read by the mystery box there, too.

250, That's all? (1)

numbscholar (1939936) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123530)

I remember seeing more cameras than that last time I went to Best Buy.

Get over it. (0)

lostmongoose (1094523) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123576)

This is not a privacy issue. Your plate number isn't private, never has been, and never will be. If you don't want it seen and noted, anywhere, leave your car in the garage. This is like people who get pissed about cameras in public places taking their picture. Expectation of privacy ceases to exist in public spaces.

License "blinders"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123628)

Would it be legal to recess the plate (add a light if necessary) so it would only be visible to people who view it straight on? That should render useless cameras that that would not be at the height of your average motorist.

Privacy is so passe` (1)

rjejr (921275) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123724)

I can't help but think that in a world where kids are growing up w/ smartphones which automatically upload the photo you just took and the location you took it that in 20 years anybody is going to care about "location" privacy. I was driving around Long Island yesterday and my wife noted that on the Maps app on my iPod Touch we were being "tracked". I know not every place has as many wifi hot spots as we do right now, but in 20 years you will be tracked one way or another. Forget tinfoil hats, get a tinfoil phone pouch. On a somewhat related note, I really hate red light cameras. Especially those that are advertised as anything other than money makers. Right on red is legal, just don't let the camera see you doing it. Total BS.

The difference (3)

morgauxo (974071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123792)

Police officers taking down plate numbers... Your plate number might exist in a few officer's notebooks. It is a very sparse and random sampling of places your car has been. It is very incomplete and is distributed in far too many places to hope to piece it together anyway.

A proliferation of automated plate scanners... Your plate number in a database listing every time you have driven past the scanners. Easily enough data to piece together the daily routine and and a good amount of other data on any criminal, protester, political opponent or person a police officer might just not like.

This is a lot of power to put in the hands of corruptible people. Are as many people as I see defending this really so scared of the criminals out there and have that much trust in the government? The overwhelming majority of us live our whole lives without being killed, raped or even mugged. I'm sure most of us experience something getting stolen from us at some point, usually a car broken into in the middle of the night but really, it's not THAT bad. Keep in mind as well that no serial killer, thief or rapist in history is responsible for as many deaths as our congress and executive branch.

If we keep giving so much power to our governments we WILL lose our freedoms. And for all these people who keep talking about biking and walking. Where do you live? Maybe in DC that works but DC is only an early adopter. Anything which gives the government and police more of the power they crave will spread without sufficient citizen opposition. Most areas are more rural than that and things are just too far spread apart. Many urban areas on the other hand don't have such great pedestrian accommodations and walking/biking is a likely way to get ran over.

public space? (1)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123898)

If we restrict activities in public spaces only to those we approve of, are they still public spaces?

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