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Canada's Massive Public Traffic Surveillance System

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the but-they're-really-polite-about-it dept.

Canada 239

New submitter cqwww writes "A small magazine in Victoria, BC just uncovered a massive public traffic surveillance system deployed in Canada. Here's a quote from the article: 'Normally, area police manually key in plate numbers to check suspicious cars in the databases of the Canadian Police Information Center and ICBC. With [Automatic License Plate Recognition], for $27,000, a police cruiser is mounted with two cameras and software that can read license plates on both passing and stationary cars. According to the vendors, thousands of plates can be read hourly with 95-98 percent accuracy. ... In August 2011, VicPD Information and Privacy Manager Debra Taylor called me to explain that, even though VicPD had the ALPR system in one of their cruisers, the [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] ran the system, and I should contact them for any information. "We actually don’t have a program," Taylor said. "We don’t have any documents per se." ... A month later, Taylor handed over 600 pages. ... [The claim they kept no documents] was apparently only in reference to digital information. VicPD had kept 500 pages of written, hard-copy logs of every ALPR hit they’d ever seen.'"

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239 comments

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Wrong Kind of Chilling Out (2)

mrclisdue (1321513) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929563)

I'm a smug canuck, been far north and the whole works, and I've just felt a distinctive *chill* for the first time in my 50+ years.

chills,

Re:Wrong Kind of Chilling Out (1)

game kid (805301) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929733)

Damn. Well. Looks like law enforcement got mrclisdue before he could even sign the comment!

I fear they recognize more than license plates now...

Wrong Kind of blowing up. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38929955)

Smug? What? That Canada is better than the US at everything?

Re:Wrong Kind of Chilling Out (3, Interesting)

davester666 (731373) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930181)

This is NOT new. More than 5 years ago I read an article in a lower mainland newspaper describing how police had cars with this system, patrolling parking lots looking for stolen vehicles [at least, that's what they claimed they were looking for].

And of course, there was no information as to was retained after each plate was 'checked'.

Now, I wonder who is watching all those camera's that are located at each intersection in the lower mainland...

Re:Wrong Kind of Chilling Out (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38930571)

There's a lot of potential for abuse with this system:

1) They could track your every move. Where you shop, where you get your hair cut, when you go to the doctor, that you visit the hospital often (meaning you're being treated for something), that you eat fast food often, and WHO YOU MEET OR DATE (they could figure out you're gay, which many people prefer to keep secret).

2) They could make you guilty by association. If you have coffee at Starbucks every morning at 8, and so does a criminal, they could easily claim you're suspected as an accomplice and they could investigate you. Being investigated is not pleasant even if you are innocent. This makes police harassment easy if somebody in the police force or the government has an ax to grind against you for any reason.

3) They could find that you often drive near protests, night clubs, areas with gangs or drug traffic. They could make you a suspect even if you are not involved in those activities. "Probably Cause".

4) They could use info from points 2 and 3 to make your life miserable: investigating you is just one thing. They could put you on a no fly list (as the article suggests) or a surveillance list or whatever else...

5) They could track you at any time and stop you from attending protests, union meetings, elections, political meetings, business meetings, etc. If the cops want to be a pain in your ass they could choose to stop you for questioning specifically when you're on your way to an important business meeting.

6) If it's legal to record license plates like this, they could then extend the system to identify people's faces. It's easy to argue that your face is public info if you don't cover it in public and there are judges who would accept this argument.

7) They could put traffic cameras, bus/subway cameras or building security cameras into this. If they run out of vehicles, they could install cameras on city or government vehicles like fire trucks, garbage trucks, ambulances... They could even make contracts with private companies to install this system on their service vehicles (imagine every Fed Ex truck or every Taxi being turned into a surveillance vehicle). It all depends how much they want to watch people.

8) They could use the system to automatically flag you as breaking the law. For instance, they could calculate how much time it took you to go from point A to point B, and conclude that your average speed was slightly higher than the maximum speed limit you encountered on your trip. Or they might notice you've been driving in circles (e.g. you don't know the area too well) and accuse you of DUI. It's not uncommon for law enforcement to think "let's look for patterns in unlawful activity, and then conclude every occurrence of such a pattern is an indication of illegal activity and dismiss the possibility of a legitimate explanation".
To put it simply, this means they could be accusing you of a crime because a computer says you committed a crime.

It's too much power in the hands of the government/authorities. It may help fight against some crimes (and the original article claims it works worse than traditional methods) but this comes at a cost of bigger threats to society: government/police abuse (and in the worse case scenario: tyranny). Also, if the purpose is to find needles in a haystack, why keep data about every car? The software could just analyze every plate number the cameras spot, then discard "innocent" cars and only save data about the cars that police are searching for. Clearly this is a case of "You're assumed innocent now, but you may not actually be clean so we're keeping the data in case we need it later. You know, in case you suddenly decide to break the law".

And let's keep something in mind here: maybe the government today is well-intentioned. But what about in a decade or two?
Also, the police doesn't spend a ton of money on technology just to catch 100 stolen cars. Once they get the funds for the technology, they need to justify the expense and so they expand the technology's use to everything they can (otherwise they don't get funds the next time they request them). This is how the USA got the enhanced pat-down in airports: the government said the infamous nude scanners had to be optional, so the TSA decided to make the pat-down very intrusive so as to encourage people to use the scanners.

Finally, the RCMP appears to be behind this, the BC police are just doing the surveillance for them. My guess is, BC is just doing a test drive of the system. If the RCMP is satisfied with the results, they'll have police in other provinces use it. After all the RCMP has no reason to focus solely on BC. If we don't stop it now, this thing is coming around all of Canada. And I for one don't want to see my country turn into the police state the USA have become.

I'm not sure what the big deal is. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38929577)

What does the system do with numbers once it has them? I can only imagine that the only use from a law-enforcement perspective would be to check for stolen vehicles. I'm not sure if tags like "yro" and the associated paranoia is justified.

Re:I'm not sure what the big deal is. (4, Insightful)

black6host (469985) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929631)

What does the system do with numbers once it has them? I can only imagine that the only use from a law-enforcement perspective would be to check for stolen vehicles. I'm not sure if tags like "yro" and the associated paranoia is justified.

No offense but I'm sure there are folks with far greater imaginations than yours (in this case) who will come up with many ways this could be used. Many uses of which I'm sure would definitely pertain to your rights, and not necessarily in a positive way.

Re:I'm not sure what the big deal is. (4, Insightful)

Deep Esophagus (686515) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929823)

I'm with the AC on this one. Normally I'm in the tinfoil hat crowd myself, and I detest the "if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide or to fear" argument... but I honestly can't see how this information could be abused. It's not a violation of any privacy rights -- I'm out in public along with the data on my vehicle. It doesn't deny me any freedom of movement, it doesn't reveal my stash of weed or guns hidden under the seat, it doesn't make them privy to my whispered conversation about plans to rob a bank or blow up the nearest Chuck E. Cheese's. So what constitutional rights are being curtailed or even threatened?

On the other hand, it CAN more quickly locate my car if it is stolen or the gardener who let himself in and abducted my child; it will (as others have pointed out elsewhere in this topic) also make it easier to check for outstanding warrants or unpaid traffic tickets. As someone who has had my own share of speeding tickets, I still can't object to that -- it was my own fault for getting the tickets, and if I don't pay them on time, it's my own fault for making the problem worse when (not if) I get caught.

Re:I'm not sure what the big deal is. (2)

Bobakitoo (1814374) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929875)

So what constitutional rights are being curtailed or even threatened?

None. Until you realize that it enabled them to search your vehicle under 'reasonable suspicion' because the system incorrectly flagged(Honest mistake, really!) your car as stolen...

Re:I'm not sure what the big deal is. (2)

cababunga (1195153) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929977)

Not only that. You just don't know where they are going to stop. Placing cameras on every intersection will be analogous to placing GPS tracker on every vehicle.

Re:I'm not sure what the big deal is. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38930011)

if you were incorrectly flagged the search becomes illegal and anything found would be inadmissible in court

Re:I'm not sure what the big deal is. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38930125)

Then they only need to say your car was smelling weed. The system false positive now serve only to explain why they controlled your car in first place. You can't disprove the reasonable suspicion of a officer claiming to smell weed.

They just really want to place GPS tracking around everybody's neck. Since they can't do that, tracking every car is the next best thing they can get away with.

Re:I'm not sure what the big deal is. (1)

bbecker23 (1917560) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930189)

Anything found as a result of pulling you over would be inadmissible. Smelling your weed would be irrelevant because the officer would have never been in a position to smell it had the system not flagged you. In the States anyway.

Unless the officer was going to pull you over for some other demonstrable reason (which is likely where the LEO would push) anything found would be originated from the faulty stop.

Re:I'm not sure what the big deal is. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38930091)

100% agree
They can track people with the system, but they can also 'tail' them in an unmarked car. What is the difference?
My location on public land (the street) isn't private information.

A string of assaults or murders in random locations could be mined for common vehicles in the area within a time period.
A short list of potential witnesses for a crime in a specific location could be generated in moments.
Hit and run witnesses could be contacted days later by phone or at their residence.
This system has the potential to be very beneficial to the public.

The article reads like a small time left-wing reporter, a Phd student and a web designer got their tinfoil hats on and went on a mission of framing the system in the worst light possible.
Major portions of the article discuss the Freedom of Information requests not being responded to in the most effective way, but it sounds like they weren't asking in the most polite way either (They requested "everything" relating to the ALPR system)

Re:I'm not sure what the big deal is. (1)

Grieviant (1598761) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930393)

When you take this system to its logical extreme, i.e., several thousand cameras in a city instead of just a few tens of them to catch people making traffic violations at intersections, it becomes a system to location track everyone anywhere they go. Aside from the prohibitive expense to maintain such a system, you don't have a problem with that?

Re:I'm not sure what the big deal is. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38930511)

Hate to point it out, but you're wrong on several counts. While even I, who am ALWAYS in the tinfoil hat crowd, don't have a serious issue with systems like this scanning for currently wanted vehicles, there is absolutely no reason to retain the information on non-matched vehicles. OK, your car gets stolen and you haven't reported it yet, or your straw-man kidnapped child incident happens and knowing that the car involved passed one of these things 30 minutes ago might possibly be useful in certain edge cases. Therefore, I would consent to retaining the information for a VERY BRIEF period of time--a few hours or so. There is just no reason to maintain it for weeks or months, and if they won't admit that's what they're doing--that's what they're doing. One problem with this is that nobody consents to anything--they just do whatever they want without asking or even announcing. That's wrong. It's even more wrong than having these monitoring systems in the first place.

Even if the people running this system and the officers involved have the purest of motivations and would never do anything wrong, the mere act of having a database that effectively can tell where certain vehicles were at certain times is going to present too great a temptation for others who will try to get their hands on it. Information, once collected, WILL be abused. It happens every time. Political hacks, future police state officials, divorce lawyers, private investigators, news reporters (if we have any these days) would all love to get their hands on this stuff, and if you allow the information to exist, they'll find a way. That's one reason why the agency that operates traffic monitoring cameras in my area does not record them (let's just say I've had the properly legal access and technical ability to verify this). Why? They don't want to have to deal with accident lawyers, divorce lawyers, etc. Even government officials in this case know what happens when you have a large database of stuff somebody else can twist to their own uses. Unfortunately, law enforcement in my area also has vehicles with this big brother license reader technology and they are much less forthcoming with what they do with the data. The system is, at least, reasonably easy to recognize on vehicles if you know what to look for. Stay behind them unless you're in an area with front license plates, in which case you're kind of screwed.

BTW, regarding your tickets--I guess it's your fault if you knowingly went over the speed limit, but you also should figure out if those speed limits were set according to proper engineering standards or by someone looking to increase traffic ticket revenue. There's a difference, and I would submit that the latter would absolve you partially of the moral blame here.

Re:I'm not sure what the big deal is. (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930519)

It you are a typical citizen it only eliminates anonymous travel and subjects you to additional inconveniences. Officials driving government vehicles of course are untouched, and criminals can risk countermeasures like switching plates. Your stolen car will be chopped and your kid will be dead before the police are notified with the appropriate plate. That you look forward to being severely punished for slight vehicle operation errors or paperwork oversights suggests a psychological disorder.

Re:I'm not sure what the big deal is. (2)

thegrassyknowl (762218) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930583)

So what constitutional rights are being curtailed or even threatened?

Innocent until proven guilty when they get a complete list of your traffic history (well, the vehicle's) and pull you over because you had a few previous traffic offences in your record. Either they think they can make a false report stick to you to increase their quota, or they'll just pull you up to have a peep (particularly if those previous records were DUI or similar, so they pull you up for a "random" test in the hope that you might be drunk again).

Re:I'm not sure what the big deal is. (5, Informative)

hlavac (914630) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929655)

The problem is they keep the logs, instead of comparing the read plates to a known search list and discarding the ones they were not looking for immediately. That way, they basically collect survelilance data on everyone "just in case they need it later". The only data that can not be misused is the data that does not exist, period.

Re:I'm not sure what the big deal is. (2)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929687)

Wouldn't this be an end-run around warrantless GPS tracking, which the USA Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional?

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2012/01/supreme-court-holds-warrantless-gps-tracking-unconstitutional.ars [arstechnica.com]

Who needs GPS tracking if you can put these on every government building, police car, and city vehicle (including buses) to track license numbers? City surveillance cameras could be linked in too.

(I realize this article is about use in Canada, but this technology is starting to get some use in the USA as well)

Re:I'm not sure what the big deal is. (1)

Jiro (131519) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929987)

Unfortunately, that USA ruling about warrantless tracking was based on the reasoning that the older laws that considered it a search to do a physical trespass were still in effect. The tracking was illegal without a warrant because it involved physically putting the GPS on the car.

That's a very limited ruling that wouldn't make it illegal to track someone by taking thousands of photos, since you don't need to touch the car to do that.

Re:I'm not sure what the big deal is. (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930193)

It takes a lot more effort to put a license plate reader on every street corner and use it to pick one car out of every car on the road than to put one GPS device on a car.

Not to mention that driving at night would probably defeat the camera system.

Re:I'm not sure what the big deal is. (1)

geniice (1336589) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930481)

Except technology improves which means it will likely take less effort and less cost as time goes by. In fact that has already happened. The reason these systems seem to appear out of the blue is that they don't require major capital expenditures and large departments managing them. They can also be retrofitted to existing systems.

You also don't need every street corner. Major roads and areas of interest will give you enough information for most purposes.

Re:I'm not sure what the big deal is. (4, Interesting)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929711)

Well, they could sell or give the info to auto insurance companies. By gathering data on which cars are where in relation to traffic accidents and traffic density, the insurance companies are bound to use that data to adjust their premium rates. And the tinfoil hat brigadier in me has the feeling they won't decrease.

Re:I'm not sure what the big deal is. (2)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929857)

Well, they could sell or give the info to auto insurance companies.

Hell, that's nothing. They can sell the data to credit scoring companies - the kind of companies that are now promoting things like scores for how likely people are to take their prescription medicine. They can sell it to stalkers - directly or through some legiitimizing proxy like a PI - who might like to know all the places their victims have driven in the last year.

Really, the possibilities for how this information can be used to the against perfectly innocent, law-abiding people are endless. If it were up to me, any sort of ANPR would require a warrant. Wholesale dragnet surveillance without any suspicion of wrongdoing like this just does not square with my idea - and I hope the general public's idea - of a "reasonable search." (Yeah, I know it's Canada, same crap has been going on in parts of the US for over a decade now).

Re:I'm not sure what the big deal is. (3, Informative)

j-beda (85386) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929869)

In BC the car insurance is run by a government monopoly, so I guess it would be easier to pass them data. Having a well run single insurer is actually pretty efficient, as it lowers a lot of advertising and other overhead, but of course there are challenges in a system without competitive pressures to keep things in line, and a poorly run monopoly can be really terrible.

Nothing compared to Britain (5, Informative)

Dark$ide (732508) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929603)

In Britain every police car has ANPR (auto number plate recognition). They also have access to the insurance companies and DoT databases. Their system can tell a) if it's stolen, b) if it's insured and c) if it has a valid roadworthiness certificate (MOT certificate).

Anyone of those can trigger the boys in blue to give you a tug.

Re:Nothing compared to Britain (0)

Adaeniel (1315637) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929659)

Anyone of those can trigger the boys in blue to give you a tug.

So if you don't insure your car you get free handjobs from authority figures? Man, why hasn't everyone moved to Great Britain by now?

Re:Nothing compared to Britain (2)

pro151 (2021702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929705)

So if everything dealing with your vehicle, license and insurance is in order you have nothing to worry about, correct? The technology available is going to be used, no mater what we think or want, they can watch,track, monitor me 24/7 if they have nothing better to do. The Police/government/Big Brother (pick your favorite) have always used the newest technology to try to stay on top and they have no intention of changing or stopping now.

Re:Nothing compared to Britain (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930217)

So if everything dealing with your vehicle, license and insurance is in order you have nothing to worry about, correct?

Yes, if you have nothing to fear, you have nothing to hide, comrade.

And it's a silly system for the UK as insurance covers drivers, not vehicles. I was insured to drive any vehicle I didn't own as well as the two that I did, hence I could be stopped for driving a vehicle perfectly legally.

Re:Nothing compared to Britain (1)

pro151 (2021702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930251)

Insurance should cover the driver here in the U.S. as well, not the vehicle. You should pay for the number of drivers, not the number of vehicles. What a racket we have here.

Re:Nothing compared to Britain (2)

Degats (1506137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930595)

Most policies in the UK that cover you to drive "any vehicle" also require that vehicle to already be included on *someone's* insurance, just not necessarily yours.
Typically, it's only some commercial insurance where that's not the case afaik.

I'd check your small print if I were you - it's quite common for people to get caught out by this.

Re:Nothing compared to Britain (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38929781)

From looking at British cop shows it appears they also check if the car is owned by a suspended driver, owner has other offenses, like drugs, assaults etc. If a car has been reported in relation to a crime, say shoplifting or taking off from a petrol station w/o paying etc, the plate goes into the 'plates to watch for' database and the officers gets an alert if the plate is spotted.

Re:Nothing compared to Britain (1)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929893)

That - along with Coppers trying to fulfill their quota for the month.

Re:Nothing compared to Britain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38930563)

Yea the ones over in Costa Mesa (California) were being payed an additional $5k each year to wash/maintain their motorcycles as separate from their $150k salaries.

Re:Nothing compared to Britain (4, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929965)

Works for me. I pay MY insurance and don't care for some idiot crashing into me and causing damage he/she/it can't pay for.

Likewise, the more stolen vehicles recovered the better for insurance rates. I don't steal cars, no problem.

The PURPOSE of a license plate is to publicly identify the vehicle.

Coats of Arms is /w Identification, not licenses. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38930373)

A license is an instrument aligning the posessor to mercy of regulation directed by Private permition to do that is otherwise unlawful.

A driver is defined likewise in perview of said regulation.

According to the HISTORICAL office of Armiger, it is not the Coats of Arms as the cloth put on the Arms but the Arms is what actually describes the purpose of Identification. Do you understand that? The 2nd Amendement of the Bill of Rights is asserted by the People to Identify theirselves as able-bodies self-protecting self-governing individuals and they do this by crossing their Arms with their choice of Weapon to assert their Rights.

When you can't assure your self-protection and can't uphold your Identification with your trailing Coats of Arms then the Government can coerce your association to whatever political bastardry they wish to maintane the existance of the Government to necessitate further interaction with you (job security realy). Feel like being forced to be a Republican or a Democrat, like George Washing said would happen?

All licenses are private: they create the caste system of who is privileged and who is not.

In the public, regardless of private character there is only equality: even in Statutory Law it is written that "All Roads are Open as a Matter of Right to Public Vehicular Travel" whereas a license is a trespass of a foreign principal.

Tell me why you need Private permition for a Public road, but I'm sure you'll put your money where your mouth is like the Freemen of Montana or The Africca Family or Waco.

EOF.

Collisions are a 2-way street. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38930423)

So you are saying that you pay insurance and demand someone else to pay for damages that your insurance is supposed to be used for.

So you are saying that someone else collides with you, but you didn't collide to them in same to cause damage to them?

It's called an Equal Exchange: if you feel brave enough, then You decide to assent to another has having a more momentous Right of Way like how a more potent vessel is avoided by the lesser.

That's why Presidents of the United States starting with Jefferson were tampering with the rights of as many Americans as they could to force the people into getting into fights with foreigners like how they were forced to drive on collision courses with Brittish by changing the Right of Way alignment.

Let's cut the story short and just realize that in-order to abide by Traffic Signals then you need a license, whereas otherwise you are free to as casual and gentele that the United States wouldn't allow you into: if someone bumps into you, forgive them and pray God guides them.

Every government has reduced the people to poverty, killed-off the most responsible in favor of the one's that give the most potential revenue of job security, and changed the landscape of entire continents as traitors would breed a more manageable culture instead of independent responsible denizens (not citizens).

Re:Nothing compared to Britain (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930587)

Might save the insurance companies money, but do you really think they will give you the money they save?

Re:Nothing compared to Britain (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38929991)

It's not just the police cars; every major route in Britain (and many not-so-major ones) has ANPR cameras, and nobody seems to have noticed.

Re:Nothing compared to Britain (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38930261)

But wait, there's more...
Over here in dear old Blighty, there are people other than the police who have access to both ANPR cameras *and* access to the DVLA database (register of car plates and their owners), park in the wrong place, get a 'fine' from a private company..usually of the form, pay within x days it's £40, otherwise its £70, or we'll take you to court, and you wouldn't want that, eh?, just think of your credit rating/score..

soon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38929677)

Police will soon be outsourced to our technological overlords.

Uncovered? (4, Interesting)

s4ltyd0g (452701) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929689)

The system has been in Quebec for several months now. They are using it mostly to find folks who haven't paid their drivers registration. They say they will not use it to find folks with outstanding tickets. The traffic divisions get all the big bucks. It's a real cash cow for the government. It was all over the news here though so there was nothing to really uncover. You can see the equipment and every once in a while I see a provincial car cruising slowly along the shoulder of the road with an array of equipment bolted to the roof scanning. Over here as far as I know though it's not used by local police yet.

cheers

Re:Uncovered? (-1, Offtopic)

mrclisdue (1321513) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929769)

Hey, the article's about Canada, not PQ!

Mod offtopic!

Re:Uncovered? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38929943)

Hey, the article's about Canada, not PQ!

Mod offtopic!

Too bad i already posted in the thread, i would have moded YOU off topic.

Re:Uncovered? (2)

mrclisdue (1321513) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930329)

Je pense que vous manquez le *whoosh*

j"appologize si j'ai offensé n'importe lequel de mes compatriotes quebocois.

a la votre,

 

Re:Uncovered? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38930081)

Haha you are funny

Re:Uncovered? (1)

hipp5 (1635263) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929931)

And Nova Scotia (since maybe last summer or the one before).

Re:Uncovered? (1)

legojenn (462946) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930321)

I think I saw a Gatineau cop with cameras on the roof on Friday. I figure that it was an ANPR system, but thought was weird that the cameras appear to be pointed perpendicular to the road, rather than targetted at licence plates. go figger

Re:Uncovered? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38930361)

yep, i'm a gatineau resident and see them weekly, they park on the side of busy roads on rush hour and scan thousands of plates.

sucks because everybody slows down because its a cop, so it creates a mess during rush hour, i dont understand why they dont just install those things on posts and call it a day, they do it with red-light camera's ... why not with these things ?

Re:Uncovered? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38930605)

They are using it mostly to find folks who haven't paid their drivers registration.

This seems like a particularly bizarre way of solving this problem, though. Instead of checking up with the people who had a registered vehicle last year but didn't register it this year, they're scanning the entire population of vehicles and checking each one to see if it's registered? They're tackling a simple problem with a monstrously overcomplicated solution.

Western Washington (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38929695)

Several agencies in Western Washington have had these for a while. (State patrol, Tacoma & Lakewood, definitely Lacey & Olympia probably)
Main use: Finding people who owe them money (unpaid traffic tickets).
They do occasionally find stolen cars. Mine was found after 3 weeks, sitting on a side street. They called me to come get it, didn't run prints or in any way investigate who might have stolen it, "just get it out of here"

Re:Western Washington (3, Informative)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929719)

They do occasionally find stolen cars. Mine was found after 3 weeks, sitting on a side street. They called me to come get it, didn't run prints or in any way investigate who might have stolen it, "just get it out of here"

At least they let you come pick it up -- in many cities they'll treat it as an abandoned vehicle and tow it and charge you the tow and impound fees:

http://blog.sfgate.com/cwnevius/2009/11/11/car-stolen-that-will-cost-you-300-part-ii/ [sfgate.com]

Memphis (TN) has been doing this for a while... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38929701)

The MPD has over 70 of these roaming the city. They call them "Prowlers." See https://kiosk.memphispolice.org/realtime/LPR_Page.htm .

Re:Memphis (TN) has been doing this for a while... (1)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929919)

Prowler and prowl car are names for police cars that have been around for a while.

I thought this was pretty normal (1)

sirwired (27582) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929709)

I thought ANPR was a pretty normal thing to equip a police car with nowadays. Not standard, by any means, but not something really out of the ordinary.

Re:I thought this was pretty normal (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930191)

ANPR is pretty new in most of Canada, the provincal police in Quebec have it or most of them do. The OPP in Ontario will see it in 2020 or 2050 as they still don't have digital terminals in most of their cars, they're still doing stuff by hand and calling dispatch when they do a check. Peel regional police(near Toronto--richest municipality in Ontario, will probably see it if they want it if they don't already have it). But I can't figure out what's secret. The RCMP will get it no question they're the "federal" yet "local" police in most places across Canada(except Ontario, Quebec, and parts of the maritimes as they have provincial police). I remember reading over a year ago that VPD, and the RCMP were test phase rolling this out then. And there was quite a bit of news on this then.

The officer could be correct in claiming they didn't have anything until he contacted his superior too. Policing in Canada at best is a clusterfuck of complicated shit because of privacy and data retention laws. And since license plates are considered private yet not-private(since the LP is public, but the name is private), not everything would have crossed his desk yet, including that the system exists, but particular information doesn't exist because it's digital and has to be transcribed over to paper copies for archive purposes. Yeah you read that right, not only do you have to archive digitally here, but on paper too.

Hmph. (3, Insightful)

ColaMan (37550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929717)

According to the vendors, thousands of plates can be read hourly with 95-98 percent accuracy.

Just a little grumble....
Two thousand an hour at 95-98 percent accuracy gives 40 to 100 wrongly-read plates.

Just like dictation software, where they say "99% accurate!" - a hundred words is pretty easy to clock up and then you seem to be forever correcting it.

Re:Hmph. (1)

Imrik (148191) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929861)

But then only a small number of those wrongly-read plates will read as stolen or whatever, and those will be easy to identify when the police look at the actual plate.

Re:Hmph. (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929975)

"Two thousand an hour at 95-98 percent accuracy gives 40 to 100 wrongly-read plates."

Whose status can be confirmed by other means if the vehicle is pulled over.

Now try the same thing with the "Mark 1 human eyeball" then compare error rates.

Re:Hmph. (2)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929999)

According to the vendors, thousands of plates can be read hourly with 95-98 percent accuracy.

Just a little grumble.... Two thousand an hour at 95-98 percent accuracy gives 40 to 100 wrongly-read plates.

Just like dictation software, where they say "99% accurate!" - a hundred words is pretty easy to clock up and then you seem to be forever correcting it.

It will also be easy to tell when they see the VW Bug you're driving isn't the stolen GMC Denali that matches the plates the system erroneously reported you as having. These kinds of false positives really aren't that big a deal. The cops aren't going to jump out guns blazing or taze the crap out of you just because the automatic plate reader flagged your car as possibly stolen.

Re:Hmph. (4, Informative)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930229)

The cops aren't going to jump out guns blazing or taze the crap out of you just because the automatic plate reader flagged your car as possibly stolen.

Just like they would never pull someone over and end up tazing the crap out of them because their license plate frame was crooked.

Oh... well, er... [abc4.com]

And unbunch panties (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929729)

Your plates are already public information. These systems (the UK has had one for years) just read that information and flag up PlusBad. The argument is really about the likelihood of being caught.

Of course, someone will post about how their sainted grandmother was gunned down by El Federales because Bankrobber Billy cloned her plates on his getaway car and it was picked up by an A?PR system. Bring it.

Re:And unbunch panties (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38929985)

Nothing to hide, nothing to fear! Right on, brother!

Big Brother X / God is dead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38929759)

Why not? And now that God is no longer watching, somebody has to.

Re:Big Brother X / God is dead (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38929797)

And indeed, somebody is! [irateirishman.com]

These YRO stories (1)

tbird81 (946205) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929763)

Are you trying to turn people into "ban it" luddites?

Oh no, a machine can read a number plate! They'll know where my car was!

Well, no-one cares. It's technology. It happens. It has good parts and bad parts. Stop panicking!

Re:These YRO stories (1)

akgooseman (632715) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929817)

I care ... and don't understand why you don't/can't/won't

My fellow Canadians.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38929795)

Keep your insurance stickers up to date!

Took them 9 months to catch me, wont be long before
you get a notice in the mail that "Officer 203-67983 observed the
violation at XX:XX:XXpm on the date of XXX"

Just like the automated toll route in Ontario, the 407

Road Traffic Police State (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929825)

This type of thing is the inevitable consequence of policing road traffic. But here's the thing about that: road traffic doesn't really need to be policed. The road rules exist to avoid crashes, but no one wants to crash. People try very hard to avoid crashing. If there were no police on the roads, the exact same people would try just as hard to avoid crashing.

But roads are a police state, because you know The Right Way for everyone else to drive. Learn to mind your own business. And tell your neighbor to learn to mind his. Then we can move away from traffic laws and police enforcement to traffic rules and guidelines that are upheld due to ordinary social courtesy and manners (and because you don't want to crash).

And then you won't have to worry about police tracking your every move.

Lots of other things don't need to be policed either. Please learn to mind your own business. Thanks.

Re:Road Traffic Police State (1)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929927)

"You've never driven in $[MY_STATE]!"

Re:Road Traffic Police State (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930437)

Did you see a police officer prevent a car crash in your state? No, you didn't.

Re:Road Traffic Police State (1)

hipp5 (1635263) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929951)

Except there's a whole segment of the population who thinks they are too skilled to ever crash...

Re:Road Traffic Police State (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930145)

Not to mention that 80% think they are above average drivers.

Re:Road Traffic Police State (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930391)

Since the average driver doesn't crash his car every day, how does this matter? Even very bad drivers often go years without crashing.

Re:Road Traffic Police State (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930289)

With all the police out there? How can that be? It's almost as if all that policing doesn't solve the problem...

Re:Road Traffic Police State (3, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929997)

"People try very hard to avoid crashing. If there were no police on the roads, the exact same people would try just as hard to avoid crashing."

You assume people Give the Proverbial Fuck without being reminded. Maybe you do, in which case congrats on your virtue but don't expect it to scale.

Drunks don't try hard to avoid crashing and crash often. Many drivers crash but refuse to carry insurance. Many drivers run expired license tags or swap them from other vehicles. Auto theft is common.

Re:Road Traffic Police State (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930013)

The road rules exist to avoid crashes, but no one wants to crash. People try very hard to avoid crashing. If there were no police on the roads, the exact same people would try just as hard to avoid crashing.

One of the local radio stations in my (rather large) city once asked on it's morning for people to call in if they had ever intentionally wrecked into another car. Their phones were ringing off the hook. Whether to get insurance to fix their car, because you cut them off, or they're just having a really bad day, there is a not insignificant number of people out there who will intentionally crash into others.

Re:Road Traffic Police State (2)

Kohath (38547) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930281)

Even though it's against the law? And with all the police out there? How can that be? It's almost as if all that policing doesn't solve the problem...

Re:Road Traffic Police State (1)

heypete (60671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930095)

A nice sentiment, but unrealistic.

Having been in areas with reasonable (and non-excessive) police patrolling the roads and in areas (say Rome or Cairo) where obediance of common-sense traffic laws is essentially non-existent, I much prefer having the police around to keep things flowing smoothly.

In Cairo, traffic laws technically exist but are widely disregarded (mostly because the police aren't anywhere near sufficient in number to enforce them after the revolution last year). Previously one-way streets now have (unofficial) two-way traffic, which results in massive delays and confusion. People ignore traffic signals, and so a light will cycle through green-yellow-red a dozen times and maybe one car gets through (due to the cross-traffic not bothering to stop). Farmers bring their donkey-pulled carts onto controlled-access highways, causing massive slowdowns. Vendors will set up food carts in the middle of a multi-lane road, blocking a full lane, and sell food. All the drivers are honking and gesturing, but because traffic is so snarled the vendor makes decent business from drivers and pedestrians who take advantage of the stopped traffic to cross the street. If a road has lines painted for three lanes of traffic in one direction, there will be five actual lanes of traffic (nobody pays any attention to the painted lines).

In short: driving in Cairo is pure chaos. Left to their own devices, people drive like maniacs.

Having an oppressive police state on the road (or the speed traps set up by small rural towns) is undesireable and benefits nobody (except the police), certainly, but having clear, well-defined rules that are enforced by the police helps keep things flowing smoothly and safely. The Swiss (I live in Switzerland), for example, have reasonable traffic laws (though they do tend to enforce speed limits quite harshly) and reasonable enforcement, and traffic tends to flow well.

Re:Road Traffic Police State (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930331)

You are confusing the affects of cultural differences with the affects of policing. Bad drivers are bad drivers, regardless of police. Courtesy and manners don't come from police either. And police don't design roads to prevent gridlock, nor does the presence of police suddenly make a road built for 1000 cars per hour handle 5000 cars.

scan errors could be fatal (2)

dltaylor (7510) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929907)

Used to have a "hot hatchback", and a local PO mis-entered the license number into his system, just like the ALPR scan errors. The license plate/vehicle mismatch was obviously good grounds for a stop. Problem was that I couldn't see his active roof light bar above the low roof line and the locals don't have dash-mounted lights. All I could see when I parked at the grocery store was that some asshole had pulled up behind me (I'm in a diagonal slot in a shopping mall) and was shining his bright headlights in my mirror. I bounced out, carrying a black wallet; it wouldn't have been unheard-of for anyone other than an old white dude to end up dead.

Re:scan errors could be fatal (1)

hipp5 (1635263) | more than 2 years ago | (#38929963)

That sounds to me more like a failure of the police car design rather than a consequence of scan errors.

American version? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38929935)

I passed by a cop parked at a heavy intersection for the Superbowl scanning license plates as they went by. What are the chances I just got put into some database that will later be sold?

I think I will avoid passing by the stadium for two reasons now. the traffic, and this.

Fleshlight Belt Buckles (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38929973)

The Low Point â" a View from the Valley â" Column 11
The Land of "Nothing for free"

On the map, Laguna Niguel looks like a beautiful Pacific coastal area south of Los Angeles, a little like one of my favorite spots Monterey, south of San Francisco. But I forgot; this is Los Angeles, where the brown haze of the air lies like a thick blanket over the insane sprawl of "Generica". It's an endless landscape of McDonalds, strip-malls and gas stations familiar to anyone who has seen the movie "Ghost World". Nothing is free here. You pay for parking (nothing but valet available), driving on toll roads, access to much of the beach (private). If they could figure out how to charge for the air I'm sure there'd be meters every block or so. It's a fitting home for the entertainment industry.

I was down there to give a talk on "Open Source Business Models" for a conference. Also represented were entertainment industry lawyers, "Big Telecom" management, and a smattering of software people. Microsoft was there of course. You can't hold a church fete with "Open Source" on the banner these days without Microsoft turning up and requesting representation. At least we also had Bruce Perens on our side to help make up the balance. The venue was an unbelievably expensive hotel. Even though I was on expenses I balked at asking the company to pay for a room there and found something cheaper (not by much) a few miles down the road.

Along with the collection of apologists for the "ultimate evils" (tm) of Hollywood and Telephone companies there were some very interesting presentations. A Japanese telecoms researcher made all the software people jealous by describing the idyllic state of broadband in Japan, where providers vie to sell gigabit fiber-optic pipes to the home. Yes, you read that right, Gigabit. The obvious question was asked; "what do people use all that bandwidth for" and the less than obvious answer was that they use it for all the same things people in less bandwidth-friendly countries do, they just do more of it. I could see a collective shudder pass through the entertainment industry people. They knew what that meant.

A keynote by Lawrence Lessig made the point even further. He showed a series of "mash-ups" of copyrighted material which were incredibly creative and funny. All completely illegal and currently being hunted off the Internet by entertainment industry lawyers. One of the most amusing asides was from a Walt Disney legal reply to a parent requesting "fair use" rights to use some clips from a Disney movie to put in his home video. He pleadingly promised them it was meant only for family viewing. "We currently deny all requests to use our material....". Even if you are impudent enough to ask, the answer is always no. At least one of the other studios replied that the current commercial rate was $700 to use a 30 second clip. I can see that being popular amongst parents making home movies. He also covered the current patent quagmire. A very interesting fact from his talk was that the total unit cost for a Chinese manufacturer to build a DVD player was around $26. However the total royalty fees they have to pay to western companies for the patent rights to build a player is $21 per unit, thus completely eliminating any profit they might make. No wonder the Chinese are currently creating their own digital video standard, completely incompatible with Western ones. It's the only thing that makes economic sense for them. This is almost certainly behind the Chinese refusal to use the new WiFi standards for wireless devices also.

I ended up making myself unpopular by publicly attacking the Washington-based economist who'd advised the Clinton Administration on "Intellectual Property" issues. It's a very personal issue for me as it affects my everyday life and work, so when he made the statement that "strengthening the patent system leads to more innovation for everyone" I saw red. He doesn't write software of course. I tried to explain later in private that it would be like people being able to patent economic theories in his line of work. That began to hit home, but he explained that the problem in Washington is that patents are heavily pushed to the politicians by the Pharmaceutical Industry. "These guys say they're going to cure cancer, what are you going to do for us ?" is the request that anti-software patent lobbyists have to learn to counter.

My panel was rather uncontroversial, Microsoft, Bruce Perens and myself being on our best behavior. The only sparks that flew where when Microsoft made it abundantly clear that they would use their patent portfolio to prevent the spread of GPL software. Section seven of the GPL (the implicit patent grant of the license) now looks like the most prescient writing Richard Stallman has ever done. If you're not familiar with it I'd suggest you read it and understand why using the GPL to protect your Free Software is so important.

Fireworks only exploded in the session on business models in the Internet age for entertainment industry products (music CD's mainly). This was even before the horrendous vandalism perpetrated by Sony on Windows users by propagating a rootkit as part of a digital rights management product on Sony CD's. Let's be clear, these people hate the Internet. If they had a single-use time machine they'd rather use it to go back in time and kill everyone responsible for creating TCP/IP than prevent the Second World War. The movie industry sees what has happened with CD's, looks at the gigabit bandwidth available in Japan and they know they're next. They will do anything to prevent it, pass any law, remove any civil right or fair use provision that gets in their way. I began to understood this when I had a discussion with a lawyer who was arguing that "we just need stiffer penalties, we need to make an example of people swapping files on the Internet". To which I responded, "why don't we just execute people who break the speed limit ?". Does anyone remember the slogan that used to be printed on vinyl records, "Home taping is illegal and is killing music" ?

When enough people decide that an activity is legal, in a democracy such a thing eventually becomes legal. Look at the way the drug laws have changed in Europe. It's a sign of how damaged American democracy has become that the same thing hasn't happened here. The Internet is a massive threat to some people, and if we don't fight to keep it, we deserve to lose it. I'll end with a "fair use" quote from one of my favorite 70's bands, Hawkwind which seems appropriate somehow, and append one line of my own :

        Welcome to the oceans in a labeled can,
        Welcome to the dehydrated lands,
        Welcome to the self police parade,
        Welcome to the neo-golden age,
        Welcome to the days you've made

Welcome to the land of "Nothing for free".

        Jeremy Allison,
        Samba Team.
        San Jose, California.
        20th November 2005.

Re:Fleshlight Belt Buckles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38930225)

I don't want to live in this country anymore.

What about security? (1)

AverageWindowsUser (2537474) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930005)

I wonder about the security of the networks holding all of the images of license plates and the databases of violators. What codecs are used and what streaming data type.

It's interesting how such an expensive system is thwarted with petroleum distillates and other natural minerals:

http://www.phantomplate.com/ [phantomplate.com]

A quick five second spray on each plate. Some people don't bother to take the plates of the vehicle and just spray. I've seen this and it did not alter the appearance of the vehicle. Some undoubtedly have thought of spraying the plates of random vehicles. Some have mailed photos of the cash to pay the fines as a reply to the photo of their vehicle being mailed with a ticket.

Re:What about security? (1)

heypete (60671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930117)

That stuff claims to only work for cameras that use flashes (e.g. red light cameras). ANPR readers don't use flashes.

It also doesn't work [amazon.com] .

Re:What about security? (0)

AverageWindowsUser (2537474) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930421)

If it didn't work then nobody would be selling it.

Been going on here for years... (1)

flogger (524072) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930037)

This has been going on for years in the states. Cameras in the cars spotting plates and running them against databases is common place. What the public (Slashdotters tend to be more educated than the public) seems to not know is that there are cameras at traffic lights that tie into the police departments and Department of Homeland Scrutiny. DHS knows where people are traveling to and from.

In a discussion with a peer the other day, she said, "Is seems we are headed for '1984.' When do you think we will get there?" I told her that we were already there and a better question to ask is, "When did we get there."

Re:Been going on here for years... (4, Insightful)

w_dragon (1802458) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930341)

Stop the hyperbole. 1984 had cameras in every room in every house, and televisions broadcasting propaganda 24/7 that couldn't be turned off. Entrapment was both legal and encouraged to catch people breaking the law. If you want to put a soundproof room in your house to have a place you can guarantee you can't be snooped on no one is going to stop you. No one is going to arrest you for reading a history or politics book, even if it is about how great communism is. Even if you go grab a copy of the Anarchists Cookbook and get arrested for it no one is going to try to torture you into loving America while you're in prison. Anyone who thinks we're in 1984 hasn't read 1984.

mo3 Down (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38930115)

Mod points an`d

Connecticut (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38930135)

A close friend of mine is an officer in a nearby Connecticut town. Last week he told me all the towns in the state had the system installed in most of the cars. Apparently it was a gift from a local officer's club (or something similar) in a town that had great success with it.

To be honest, I have no problem with this technology being used with cruisers. Using it to create a stationary network to track the movement of all cars and civilians I do have a problem with.

Boston area has cameras at all major intersections (1)

Peter Simpson (112887) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930255)

Cylindrical cameras on top of traffic lights at all major intersections. Never heard an explanation, but they're at every new intersection built. Maybe they're for traffic monitoring, but once you have the image stream, anything's possible.

Re:Boston area has cameras at all major intersecti (1)

w_dragon (1802458) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930351)

Those probably aren't cameras, they're sensors that see the strobe lights on top of fire trucks so they can turn green for the fire truck.

Re:Boston area has cameras at all major intersecti (1)

dr2chase (653338) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930365)

Sure those aren't for detecting oncoming emergency vehicles? Check to see if the "camera" is strobing when an ambulance or fire truck is driving through. It switches the lights to a phase that clears the traffic and lets the emergency vehicle through more quickly.

Looks like a good idea (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930267)

This stuff can make the work of the police far more efficient leading to the recovery of more stolen cars and the catching of more criminals. If, as the article claims, only the criminals' licence plate gets recorded, there is no privacy invasion.

It isn't just Canada (1)

kilodelta (843627) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930327)

For example, there's a vid on youtube (Which I can't find right now) showing the new cruisers that LAPD is using. They have ALPR cameras and software installed.

And I've spotted ALPR here in Providence, RI too. So it's widespread. So either mount a high gamma source near your registration plates, or better yet, paint a clear radium coating over the entire plate. :)

CAPTCHA (1)

VIPERsssss (907375) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930389)

I wonder how legal would it be to CAPTCHA my plate with some colored tape?

Canada is far from the worst (2)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 2 years ago | (#38930483)

Has anybody been to Italy? It seems like every town of more than a hundred people has what they call a ZTL where foreigners cannot drive in. Those zones are bordered by barely legible signs with cameras attached to them. License plates are automatically scanned and fined with what appears to be no doublechecking.

I know that the last time I went there, we were fined for entering the zone when we'd specifically been "cleared out" by the hotel we were staying at. Apparently they send the tickets no matter what and quietly accept payments even if you did no wrong.

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