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The Rapid Rise of License Plate Readers

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the eye-in-the-sky dept.

Privacy 302

An anonymous reader writes "Today, tens of thousands of license plate readers (LPRs) are being used by law enforcement agencies all over the country—practically every week, local media around the country report on some LPR expansion. But the system's unchecked and largely unmonitored use raises significant privacy concerns. License plates, dates, times, and locations of all cars seen are kept in law enforcement databases for months or even years at a time. In the worst case, the New York State Police keeps all of its LPR data indefinitely. No universal standard governs how long data can or should be retained."

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wait, I thought stuff like this & tripwire (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41005205)

the patriot acts, drones and the war on terror was just a paranoid delusion?

Re:wait, I thought stuff like this & tripwire (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41005281)

The slippery slope is not real. Keep telling yourself that.

Re:wait, I thought stuff like this & tripwire (1)

Penurious Penguin (2687307) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005541)

It's Tr a pWire, not "Trip". Such an important subject deserves accurate spelling.

Re:wait, I thought stuff like this & tripwire (1)

Beardydog (716221) | more than 2 years ago | (#41006033)

But it's exactly like having twenty police officers on every single street corner hand writing voluminous logs of every plate they see, along with the current date and time.

Since that could be done without warrant, this is obviously perfectly fine, and not even worth thinking about.

Re:wait, I thought stuff like this & tripwire (5, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 2 years ago | (#41006343)

Since that could be done without warrant, this is obviously perfectly fine, and not even worth thinking about.

All that tells us is that legally, it isn't an technically an invasion of privacy, per se. However, the potential for abuse is almost unlimited, and as such, it is not something the government (or any private party, either) should ever be allowed to do—not for privacy reasons, but because it gives the government nearly unlimited power over the people. As Jefferson once put it, "A government afraid of its citizens is a democracy; citizens afraid of government is tyranny."

The big thing you're missing is that the public would never authorize the expenditure for such a colossal waste of resources if this were done with humans, which means that although that could theoretically be done, it can't happen in practice. One reason the public would never authorize it is that it would be one very large step towards the panopticon, towards the world of Big Brother, etc. It would massively creep out the public to see twenty police officers on every street corner, to the point that everyone would feel constantly afraid for their freedom—afraid to say or do anything, for fear that they might accidentally cross some line and get arrested. That is the essence of totalitarianism.

Cameras on every corner are really no different from officers on every corner. What makes them far more dangerous is that they are less daunting psychologically—less likely to cause the public to realize the risk they pose—yet the totalitarian threat they represent is exactly the same. This means that they represent a way for government to take enormous strides towards increasing its power over the people without the public ever noticing. Nothing could be more dangerous to democracy and freedom. Not all the tin-pot dictators in the world, not the corrupt politicians in the pockets of big business, not terrorists, not whatever country we're ostensibly at military war or cold war with. Nothing.

The nature of government is to march determinedly towards totalitarianism. In a free society, it is the public's greatest responsibility to periodically push them back with such vigor that they are forced to retreat to a more balanced position. This is potentially a very large step towards totalitarianism. It is, therefore, the public's supreme duty, in the face of such an overstep, to slap the government's hand and say, "No. Bad government. No cookie." As it is oft said, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

Welcome to the Future (1)

Aethelred Unread (2567841) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005209)

Imagine a boot stamping on the face of humanity, forever.

Re:Welcome to the Future (2, Interesting)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005299)

I see it differently. I welcome such "progress" because it can only have one eventual outcome - the destruction of the current order. So by all means, push a little harder. Just a little more...

Re:Welcome to the Future (5, Interesting)

donaggie03 (769758) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005545)

I think things are going to have to get a LOT worse (not jsut "a little more..." for most Americans before they get off the couch and cause the destruction of the current order. Unfortunately I don't think that there's enough care out there for any meaningful push back towards a decent state. This means we're going to be stuck on this slow downward spiral for a while now. The worst part is that by the time most Americans wake up, first they will be called hippies and minimized in the media, and then the technology used by the police state will be too advanced for any meaningful change to occur. We will simply all end up being labelled as terrorists or have criminal records for showing up at an anti-whatever rally.

privacy? (1)

ralphdaugherty (225648) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005227)

I thought we past thinking we had any privacy left.

Re:privacy? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41005239)

Your license plate is always showing. I don't understand how anyone can claim it's private.

Re:privacy? (4, Funny)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005255)

I think we need to attach infrared camera "discouragement" to the back of our cars.

Re:privacy? (1)

bev_tech_rob (313485) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005495)

And law enforcement will just outlaw such 'discouragement' if they don't already and write you up when they see it...

Re:privacy? (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005321)

Your license plate is always showing. I don't understand how anyone can claim it's private.

I don't know why we need to go through this every damn time; but here goes:

Tracking and correlation. Yes, obviously, a license plate is visible, and passers-by have always been able to see them. However, without a network of passers-by observing license plates on every corner, and chattering amongst themselves about which ones are seen where, when, that means almost nothing. Only the most overtly memorable and/or suspicious license plate would merit accurate memory of time/place, much less multiple time/place recordings allowing for inferences about travel.

With automation and machine vision, highly accurate recording and correlation across fairly broad areas, in space and time, becomes relatively easy and cheap.

Surely this difference is obvious?

Re:privacy? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41005467)

Nope. Public is public. Don't like having a license plate? Don't own a car.

Re:privacy? (2)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005519)

Or move to a country that doesnt track its citizens using license plates. Or you know make your vote and voice count in your own country and limit these.

Re:privacy? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005801)

Moving is the only sane option right now. Voting doesn't work, sure, you can vote for the lesser evil and get slightly less tyranny or you can vote a protest vote for the Libertarian/Green/Constitution party, but in most elections they have no chance of winning. People in the US don't want freedom they want "security", security to do what no one seems to know and because most Americans haven't stepped outside their country and realized that many, many, countries work just fine without having an oppressive 1984-esque police state and are as safe, if not safer than the US.

Exploring your options outside of the US is the only sane thing you can do right now.

Re:privacy? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41005611)

Nope. Public is public. Don't like having a license plate? Don't own a car.

Says an Anonymous Coward...

Re:privacy? (1)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005715)

So when you're tracked by a system that recognizes you the solution is to not go outside? The government tracking all of its citizen's movements is what the issue is about. If you're okay with that kind of government tracking then argue that. Stating that license plates are already visible is largely irrelevant.

Re:privacy? (2, Interesting)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005509)

I don't know why we need to go through this every damn time; but here goes:

We have to go over it "every damn time" because people keep saying that publicly visible things are somehow privacy invasions. Once people stop claiming that then people will stop correcting them.

Re:privacy? (0)

ATMAvatar (648864) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005697)

Many of the complaints are from people who make the argument that anyone could follow you around all day and keep track of where you are. This ignores the fact that you could easily take action and get a restraining order against an individual who did so.

Re:privacy? (1)

bpeikes (596073) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005769)

Could you get a restraining order against someone who just followed you around? I'm not sure you could, unless there was some reason to think that they were also going to invade your privacy. Why wouldn't movie stars have restraining orders against all of the paparazzi if you were allowed to do this?

Re:privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41005827)

And police do follow people around, too.

Re:privacy? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41005873)

Well there are going to be some differences when it comes to public figures, as the motives for paparazzi are easily understood, and they're clearly operating within the First Amendment. They may break other laws along the way, but that's another matter. And fwiw, there are invasion of privacy torts that come up every so often, but the activities need to be pretty egregious (e.g. the photos of Jennifer Aniston sunbathing in her backyard 10 years ago, IIRC).

OTOH, if someone is following a completely private person, there's clearly no good reason, and the police will definitely get involved. A restraining order probably wouldn't be too difficult to obtain if properly requested.

Re:privacy? (1)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005837)

People view the tracking part as an invasion of privacy. Consider the ubiquity of cameras and facial recognition (and other bio-metrics). If the argument is that license plates are public and therefore tracking them is not a public invasion does the same argument apply when technology makes it possible to know and store everything you do when you step outside?

Re:privacy? (1)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005859)

is not a public invasion

is not a privacy invasion.

Re:privacy? (5, Insightful)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005875)

Most of our laws are written around the fact that we are humans. For example, there are pretty severe laws about pouring certain chemicals into the ground, but very different laws about pouring clean water into the ground, because as humans certain chemicals could greatly poison the ground and groundwater, while pouring water into the ground is only unlawful when it's a waste of clean water in a drought. If human physiology were different, these laws would be different.

The laws and customs related to public privacy are all based around the concept that humans have poor memories, which are often forgotten in moments, and are most certainly forgotten in days, months, and years, and are absolutely forgotten upon in about a century. Moreover, any "memories" which are more durable require extensive human time and effort to produce and catalog - something which is very expensive and thus limited.

Our laws and customs were designed taking this into account. Now, after however many centuries of development of our laws and customs, in the last five years we have means to augment fundamental human nature. Those that only understand the letter of the laws and customs written long ago see this as changing nothing, for they view the letters in a vacuum and ignore human nature. Those that understand the spirit of the laws and customs understand that they were established for a given time and place, and if the circumstances change the laws and customs should as well.

Re:privacy? (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#41006287)

Those resources may be limited, but from an individual's point of view they might not be. A famous celebrity may find that there are paparazzis following her all the time, the police can be following a suspected mafia boss almost constantly. People can hire private investigators to follow their SO around because they suspect they're sleeping with somebody else, no celebrity status or criminal activity required. Hell, if you avoid harassing them and turning into a stalker you can probably do it yourself. If no right is being violated when it happens to one person, why should their rights be violated when it happens to everyone? It's very different from when say the NSA wiretaps domestic phone calls without warrant, because wiretapping one phone call would also be a violation.

Re:privacy? (2)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005855)

It means they can ( and will ) track people that visit other people or places or meetings that they classify as "subversive" - like political parties they dissagree with. Like people organizing labor. Like people who are members of pro-pot groups. Socialists. Anti-totalitarianists... SUBVERSIVE TYPES LIKE YOU......

Re:privacy? (1)

pepty (1976012) | more than 2 years ago | (#41006091)

Your license plate is always showing. I don't understand how anyone can claim it's private.

With automation and machine vision, highly accurate recording and correlation across fairly broad areas, in space and time, becomes relatively easy and cheap.

Surely this difference is obvious?

On the other hand unmarked police cars have been able to follow your car wherever it goes without a warrant, and that was not considered a privacy violation. While it would be unusual to think you're being followed by the police, it wouldn't be considered to be contravening your rights or your expectations of privacy. Traditionally the expectation of privacy has been about what, when, and where the state can observe as opposed to the level of convenience a method affords. What precedents would you consider to be relevant to the tracking and correlation issue?

Re:privacy? (2)

dbet (1607261) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005809)

No one is claiming your license plate is private. It's the tracking and storing of data that's a concern.

Similarly, no one is claiming the heat escaping your house is private, but you still need a warrant to use an infrared camera to "see" inside someone's house. Even though the camera works by seeing what *leaves* the house.

Re:privacy? (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005871)

Yes but it used to be that you had to physically see it for it to be of any use.

E.g. Police are looking for a stolen car with the plate ABC - 1234
Or you are pulled over and they run your plate to double check.

It was never there so police could track where you have gone for the last 5 years.

Re:privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41006093)

It's really not a privacy issue. People don't expect to be tracked and analyzed in the land of the Free and Home of the Brave.

*pulls the cord on the Scott McNealy doll* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41005233)

"You have zero privacy today. Get over it."

really? (1, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005261)

Do you really have an expectation of privacy over the license plate hanging on your car bumper?

Aren't license plates like the opposite of private?

Re:really? (5, Insightful)

pegasustonans (589396) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005353)

Do you really have an expectation of privacy over the license plate hanging on your car bumper?

Aren't license plates like the opposite of private?

How about very specific knowledge of where you're going and when? Because, that's what we're really talking about here.

Re:really? (-1, Troll)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005433)

Don't want someone to know you're going somewhere? Don't go.

Re:really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41005629)

Yeah, great advice there, skippy! I don't know about you, but I'd like to go about my business without the feeling that I'm being watched and tracked by law enforcement or contractors connected to law enforcement. It's bad enough that my cell phone can be tracked and that the courts have said that I somehow gave up my right to privacy carrying one of those around. Shit, why don't they just say "you came out of your mom's vagina, thus you have zero expectation of privacy" and be done with it already? 1984 was just a couple decades late...

Re:really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41005995)

What you are suggesting is that those in power should be able to keep tabs on everyone. It's an incredible amount of power and it's very difficult to reverse. Why do those who govern need to know what you do all day? I can understand people who don't think enough to care about it all to be indifferent. What I have trouble with is people who actively defend this kind of thing. It does nothing for the country other than give the government more control (Don't go is your solution right?). Oddly it seems many of the people with your attitude often parrot things like 'smaller government' with no awareness of the contradiction.

Re:really? (2)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005435)

Do you really have an expectation of privacy over the license plate hanging on your car bumper?

Aren't license plates like the opposite of private?

How about very specific knowledge of where you're going and when? Because, that's what we're really talking about here.

No, it's general knowledge about what public street you were on at the time of the photo. It doesn't tell them anything about a specific place you are going. At best (worst?) they might see a still photo of you turning in to a parking spot or parked along a road.

Re:really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41005525)

At best (worst?) they might see a still photo of you turning in to a parking spot or parked along a road.

Or parked next to a union leader, or parked next to a politician (when the other guys are in power) or parked next to the anonymous whistleblower providing you information on corruption for your news article.

Re:really? (1)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005557)

At best (worst?) they might see a still photo of you turning in to a parking spot or parked along a road.

Or parked next to a union leader, or parked next to a politician (when the other guys are in power) or parked next to the anonymous whistleblower providing you information on corruption for your news article.

They can already do that without the cameras.

Re:really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41005653)

If they didn't have this system(or cell phone tracking, or whatever other new unregulated privacy invading measure they're using now) they wouldn't know where YOU were yesterday night. Or who you were with.

They do though. All they have to do is ask, they don't even need a warrant. That doesn't bother you? Not even a bit?

Really? - You really don't get it. (3, Interesting)

formfeed (703859) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005961)

No, it's general knowledge about what public street you were on at the time of the photo. It doesn't tell them anything about a specific place you are going. At best (worst?) they might see a still photo of you turning in to a parking spot or parked along a road.

Sorry. But you don't see the whole picture. License plate readers are not just single photos. It is about movement of individuals And not just one suspect, but everyone. It is automated and turns the where-abouts of individuals into a searchable database. Combined with security cameras, face recognition, and cell phone records they can give you a very accurate description of someone's movements.

So what? NY (eh, Bloomberg) is proud, that with their new technology (provided by Microsoft) they can automatically search for certain suspects. Looking for someone in a blue jacket? They can now automatically pull up surveillance of anyone in a blue jacket. And they keep video records for the last 30 days (Other records for years). They can probably match that to what car that person drove, what store he/she entered (nice pictures there), or whether she/he used the subway. They are working on software to automatically detect suspicious activity.

Once you have all this data, it would be very easy for some other unnamed agency to use it to match movement data of different individuals and come up with a list of possible contacts.

Now imagine that technology in the hand of a repressive police state. The White Rose (students who distributed leaflets against Hitler) lasted about 9 months before they were beheaded. A janitor caught them distributing leaflets. With Bloomberg/Microsoft's new Information Awareness they would last a couple hours.

Re:really? (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005929)

thank you for stating it so that even idiots can understand.

the license plate is NOT just a bunch of numbers. it represents the state's NEW ability to store your whereabouts for years and years.

this power would never have been given to the state by our founding fathers. do you think they would have encouraged this?

that's my litmus test. would they have accepted the set of powers that the state has recently been grabbing, left and right?

your plate is not just a bunch of numbers and the fact that some random person can see it for an instant is NOT the same as the gov keeping tabs on you, mechanically, ad infinitum.

is this really the direction you want a ruling government to go in? now, lets imagine that this info is stored for the next few years and maybe a long time from now, some truly evil guy gets into office. he inherits this WEALTH of info about people he can now attack or threaten.

sorry, but this is too much power for our government to have over us. it can ONLY be abused. it is not something they should have. and we are right to be outraged that they continue along these lines.

Re:really? (5, Insightful)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005367)

It's quite different when the government is using technology to automatically record everything. Just like someone seeing you walking down the sidewalk is different than you being recorded by cameras everywhere you go.

Private, public, it really doesn't matter. The citizens (in theory, at least) control the government, and they should be able to stop them from trying this nonsense.

Re:really? (5, Informative)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005429)

citizens (in theory, at least) control the government, and they should be able to stop them from trying this nonsense.

Where I live we had a referendum against red light cameras. It passed, and now the cameras are gone. Surely the same could be done with plate tracking.

Re:really? (1)

ThePeices (635180) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005445)

The citizens (in theory, at least) control the government, and they should be able to stop them from trying this nonsense.

Key word here; 'theory'.

In theory that's how a democratic government works....In practice....lol, as if. Wouldn't we be so lucky!

Re:really? (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005451)

Private, public, it really doesn't matter. The citizens (in theory, at least) control the government, and they should be able to stop them from trying this nonsense.

I think we're way beyond that at this point. We don't control the government anymore...if we ever did.

Re:really? (4, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#41006083)

I think we're way beyond that at this point. We don't control the government anymore...if we ever did.

There's a post just a couple above yours from a guy who's municipality had a referendum to get rid of some of this surveillance stuff and it passed and the cameras are gone.

Yes, you control your government if you're willing to exercise that control. You can even have a significant impact on the political system, simply by showing up at a local party committee meeting and speaking up. It takes time and will, which most people don't have.

And it means ignoring advertising and all political media for a while, and being very mindful of what corporations you give your money to, which is harder work than most people are willing to do.

Re:really? (4, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005443)

In the past, limited law enforcement resources prevented the cops from taking pictures of everyone and everything at every moment of the day.
Society's basic expectations of privacy and the laws that followed, are based upon this assumption that you could not be tracked at every second.

Not "would not be track," but "could not be tracked."
As a result, the police are operating in a grey zone.
What they're doing may be legal, but only because the law did not anticipate this.

Re:really? (0)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#41006153)

Look, I agree that we need to oppose the surveillance regime taking hold in our governments.

There are lots of good reasons to do so without making up "keep the government out of my license plate".

Re:really? (1)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005471)

Do you really have an expectation of privacy over the license plate hanging on your car bumper?

Aren't license plates like the opposite of private?

License plate, sure. Records associated with your license plate, not so much. Everywhere you've been that a scanner, a camera, your toll road pass, all connected together with your address, your IRS records, your medical information, the geolocation information from your cell phone, your ISP's address assignment information along with your search history and your emails ...

Total Information Awareness in progress. Pre-Crime Division authorization soon to follow.

Re:really? (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#41006051)

Records associated with your license plate, not so much.

You may be surprised to find out that your government already has the "records associated with your license plate".

And so do you. It's public record.

Re:really? (1)

Fnord666 (889225) | more than 2 years ago | (#41006239)

You may be surprised to find out that your government already has the "records associated with your license plate".

And so do you. It's public record.

I'm not sure what state or country you live in, so maybe this is a local phenomena. In the state I live in the registration information associated with a license plate is not a matter of public record. You need a valid court order relating to a civil or criminal case before the department of motor vehicles will officially provide you with that information.

Re:really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41005517)

The question is more the conduct of the government than any privacy right.

Do we want the government implementing a surveillance state just because there's no Constitutional prohibition against it?

This is why original-ism is a threat to true liberty, it stops us from thinking what's truly right and submits us to the purported will of somebody dead for almost two centuries.

So ask the right question:

Do you want the government engaging in this process?

I don't. I could give reasons why, but they amount to this: I don't like the idea because it creates a grievous threat to liberty.

Easy Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41005279)

Get license plate spray. It works.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_e2BC_kXis

Re:Easy Solution (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005331)

Get license plate spray. It works.

Only in the case of the now out-dated cameras that use a flash.
The kind of ANPR systems that have become ubiquitous in recent years don't use a flash.

However, I've been thinking that a clear license plate cover that embedded infra-red LEDs in strategic locations would be useful in obscuring the number to cameras - many (most?) of which are sensitive to IR in order to improve capture quality in low-light conditions - without being obvious to the naked eye.

Re:Easy Solution (1)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005413)

Wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it. I'm sure eventually they'll come out with cameras that aren't fooled. And my first thought at that was, good, make the 'em spend money buying new equipment. Then I realized whose money it is they will be spending.

Get a lenticular license plate cover (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41005329)

I have the Phantomplate cover and it works.

Haven't gotten a ticket yet!

Re:Get a lenticular license plate cover (2)

ThePeices (635180) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005463)

Lol, you should check out this TV series called Mythbusters. They would laugh at your foolish lies. And then prove you utterly wrong.

Re:Get a lenticular license plate cover (2)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 2 years ago | (#41006397)

Wouldn't have matter if it did work. Texas law prohibits any and all methods of obstructing license plates (that would otherwise obstruct automated OCR based technology).

http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/80R/billtext/pdf/SB00369F.pdf [state.tx.us]

I wouldn't be surprised if the next version of plates have RFID tags built into them. It would certainly make their job easier and the technology would be cheaper than it is with complicated and software. It would also cost the tax payer less money in equipment costs. Think of it as rape with lube thrown in to make the experience better. And remember to say "Thank You".

You're welcome citizen.

Technology = Scary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41005349)

What's the difference between hiring enough people to write down the license plates as people drive by?
This should be the same question in almost all technology privacy questions. With enough people, could you perform the same level of tracking/facial recognition/technology boogeyman?

Re:Technology = Scary (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005397)

What's the difference between hiring enough people to write down the license plates as people drive by?

One is not viable, and the other is. Of course, if you were somehow able to hire enough people to do the job, I'd say that would be an invasion of privacy, too.

But again, hiring the required amount of people to perform such a task is nearly impossible. People don't catch everything or have perfect memories, either.

Re:Technology = Scary (1)

ThePeices (635180) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005551)

What's the difference between hiring enough people to write down the license plates as people drive by?
This should be the same question in almost all technology privacy questions. With enough people, could you perform the same level of tracking/facial recognition/technology boogeyman?

There is no difference in the end, the same privacy issues would arise, I dont see your point. Human or computer, it is still just as creepy and concerning.

But computers/cameras can do it way better, faster, more accurately, cheaper, require less maintenance, are smaller, less obvious, require less effort to create the system, can provide tracking data in real-time, analyse and store tracking data forever.....dude, you got all day? I could go on and on and on...

National Scare your Reader Day (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41005363)

What is this... Fox News? Where's H1N1? We've got License Plate readers, cops spying on cell phones, Verizon charging $0.50 every time you charge your device.

I miss CommanderTaco.

Tip tc ch (-1, Offtopic)

phantri (2708659) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005381)

Tôi ngh chúng ta cn phi chung tay cung nhau, b xung nhng kinh nghim nhng kin thc ca mình cho trang web ngày càng phát trin.

Re:Tip tc ch (1)

bev_tech_rob (313485) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005469)

English, dude.....English...

What they don't know, Google does (5, Informative)

Tony Isaac (1301187) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005399)

Every Android device is constantly tracked by Google. You can see this on Google Maps...check out the accuracy and detail of the traffic overlay. Apple does the same thing with iPhones. Both companies comply willingly with law enforcement requests for tracking data. So not only can they read your plate, but they can tell who is in the car with you, where you go, and where you stay.

Is all this information good, or bad? YES! This information can be used to bring about justice, or it can be grossly abused.

Re:What they don't know, Google does (3, Funny)

7-Vodka (195504) | more than 2 years ago | (#41006339)

Hey you know what's good for justice? If we embed video cameras in your eyes and microphones in your ears and record everything on the CLOUD.

That way, if you ever break any laws, no matter how unjust they may be, we can make sure you are justly punished.

Of course why would you have anything to fear if you're innocent? Are you hiding something? Think of the CHILDREN. We have to DO SOMETHING about all this crime.

Poisoning the database (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41005425)

How about we make a bunch of signs that are pictures of different license plates, and place them randomly about town? Swap them out every few days, and change the plates, and soon the cops DB will be full of bad data.

Or pull a Little Bobby Tables, and have an image of a plate that ends in an SQL injection

You are being watched (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41005501)

We needs amendments to the US constitution to protect us from digital-based spying. The founders intended for the constitution to be amended often so that it could evolve and grow better. The digital awakening means that it needs to evolve and fast. There's no reason that law-abiding citizens should be monitored constantly. We are moving to a world were government knows everything about what you do. Only the historically naive would claim that the United States is immune to future political situations where that information, even if totally legal, could be used to blackmail, marginalize, jail, or even kill you. Unfortunately there is nothing to prevent such databases from being created. That is why we must be given new rights to protect us from them.

Rise of the License Plate Reader. (4, Funny)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005555)

Today's reading club will be focusing on a little gem in the same vein as the ever popular 50 Shades of Grease:
IB6 UB9

Mmmm, that it's made by a convict is all the more racy!

Re:Rise of the License Plate Reader. (3, Funny)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005919)

Redmond police seem to always be tracking my license plate number - B16B00B5

Can't have it both ways (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41005573)

If we're gonna bitch about not being able to take pictures in public places, we can't bitch about the gov't taking pictures in public places.

Re:Can't have it both ways (4, Insightful)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005713)

A few people taking pictures here and there is an order of magnitude different than a single organization recording everything nearly everywhere. And since citizens can (theoretically) control the government, we definitely can stop nonsense like this, and still be allowed to take pictures in public ourselves.

Re:Can't have it both ways (1)

bpeikes (596073) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005735)

So very true. Wish I could mod this comment up.

Re:Can't have it both ways (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41006019)

-1 retard

Oh, Slashdot (-1, Flamebait)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005585)

News for Luddites, Stuff to make you Scared and Angry.

One would think that the ostensibly geeky audience of this site would understand that technology advances, and when it does, it helps everyone. Cell phones help protestors and activists coordinate, and also help cops do the same. Improved cameras let people capture video of wrong doing, and also help cops track license plates. Unmanned aircraft make aviation safer and more accessible to civilians, and also to cops.

I feel like if the anarcho-libertarians around here go their way, civilians would all have modern technology while cops are forced to run around in loincloths with sharpened sticks.

Re:Oh, Slashdot (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005701)

I feel like if the anarcho-libertarians around here go their way, civilians would all have modern technology while cops are forced to run around in loincloths with sharpened sticks.

No, they just wouldn't be allowed to monitor absolutely everything and everyone just because they want to catch a few people they deem criminals. How awful that is.

Re:Oh, Slashdot (2)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005787)

It's not a matter of what technology the cops are allowed to use, it's a matter of how they use it.

Cops, with a warrant, are allowed to do all sorts of stuff. They can listen to your phone calls or search your house. As long as there's some level of checks and balances on it, I can accept that. I have this crazy idea here -- hear me out -- that before the police put together a database of everywhere my car has been pretty much forever, they should need a warrant for that too. And it'd be kind of nice if they had to get rid of that data after a certain point if it didn't enable them to build a case.

Re:Oh, Slashdot (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005951)

how's that boot taste? lick it more. mmm, that's good!

you disgust me. I do believe you are a troll since its really hard to believe that you take your own shit seriously.

Summary of Existential Incarceration (1)

Penurious Penguin (2687307) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005803)

Or perhaps: A new ontology, through the lens of biometrics | or; you're in trouble now, whether you are or not.

In the recent Slashdot post regarding TrapWire, an anonymous reader had posted a superb video which was removed. An identical version can be seen HERE [youtube.com] , which I think beautifully summarizes the current and coming state of surveillance we face.

If the mod-trolls don't send me under, my own interpretation -- inspired by and written immediately after watching the video -- can be read here:
http://www.activistpost.com/2012/08/biometrics-prison-within-tripwires.html [activistpost.com]
And on the subject of plate-readers and helicopters, here:
http://eccentricintelligenceagency.info/archives/7340 [eccentrici...gency.info]
Maybe instead of bashing me with mod-points, the more formidable cudgel of critical-thinking could be used. Otherwise, I'll continue to speak through the rubble. Things are getting so stupid, that soon neither the stupid nor the intelligent will have any power of denial.

License Plates?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41005893)

License plates?

Hmph!

Cell phone much?

Waste of money (2)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005973)

As a resident of NYS, the highest taxed state in the country, the expense of this is far more upsetting to me than the privacy implications.

I see a lot of negative posts on this (3, Interesting)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | more than 2 years ago | (#41005991)

Hello, I see a *lot* of negative privacy concerns on this post, but I see it differently. I've felt for over a decade the police should have license plate scanners. Then when they tie it into a database of stolen cars, or cars used in recent untried crimes, it would come up as a positive, and the cop could pull the car over.

Isn't there any love for police here being able to do their job more effectively? Every civilized nation needs a police force. So even if you don't like the current government, a new government still would need police. We should therefore help our police to be empowered to solve the crimes they're commonly tackling.

Re:I see a lot of negative posts on this (4, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 2 years ago | (#41006291)

Isn't there any love for police here being able to do their job more effectively?

The police should have just enough resources to do their job.
So to find stolen cars or cars used in recent crimes, do you need a license plate database stretching back 1 week? 6 months? 2 years? 10 years?

The problem isn't the police doing their job more effectively, it's the lack of limits on the information they are gathering to do their job.

Re:I see a lot of negative posts on this (1)

smellotron (1039250) | more than 2 years ago | (#41006293)

I've felt for over a decade the police should have license plate scanners. Then when they tie it into a database of stolen cars, or cars used in recent untried crimes, it would come up as a positive, and the cop could pull the car over.

I don't see a problem with that, either. Real-time scanning and correlation automates the lookups they are already doing. The problem is when the cops build up a database of all license plates instead of just "hot" vehicles. Persistent storage enables chilling new "research" which tempts abuse while offering very little marginal benefit.

Re:I see a lot of negative posts on this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41006299)

Then when they tie it into a database of stolen cars, or cars used in recent untried crimes, it would come up as a positive, and the cop could pull the car over.

I don't have a problem with that. Cop car scans my plate, determines my car isn't on the list of stolen or otherwise interesting cars, and discards my number. Oh, right, it doesn't work that way. Instead, a database of where everyone goes all the time is built up. What could possibly go wrong?

Isn't there any love for police here being able to do their job more effectively?

Oh, sure. I'd like them to catch every criminal in the act, never get the wrong guy, and never get hurt in the line of duty. I don't think there's a predominant anti-police sentiment, so much as an awareness that we give these guys a lot of power and some of them abuse it. Building abusable systems is, on balance, a dumb thing to do.

"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" is an ancient quote, which should tell you that for a LONG time we've realized that when you give people power, you need to have some method of reviewing them to make sure they don't abuse it. Inevitably, that's what all these systems are lacking.

Re:I see a lot of negative posts on this (1)

PieceOfShitAndroid (2538056) | more than 2 years ago | (#41006311)

I don't trust the police, so no, there is no love.

Been There before (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41006067)

A few years back county records available online were more extensive than they are today. Keep in mind that these are public records.
            But some people went into the courts complaining that the ease of viewing county records online somehow violated their privacy. Since we do have some judges who are pea brained that court agreed that ease of view somehow equated with loss of privacy. Now, in order to view those records one may have to go to the courthouse as they are not online.
              Now we all know that snapping a pic that catches a plate number happens both deliberately and accidentally and if it can be viewed from a public space it is fair game. It makes no matter if a person, a company, or the government keeps that pic in a database or if it is a pic stored in your desk. Somehow the notion that people can not be viewed, studied, recorded, noticed is all somehow mystically related to their notion of privacy. This is nothing more than people wanting to get away with things. Lies rot society and nations. The revelation of lies by citizens is not a bad thing. The uncovering of lies by government is also not a bad thing. It becomes evil only when the number of parties restricted from gathering and holding information is in play. All people and organisations should have access to all information that can be gathered from public spaces and sources.

ICE? (2)

guttentag (313541) | more than 2 years ago | (#41006139)

From TFA:

As a result of this rapid expansion of private monitoring, the company recently won a $25,000 contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to provide a database that would help locate "fugitive aliens."

I don't get it. What does an agency whose primary mandate is to shut down Web sites and seize domain names need LPR data for? Are people driving server farms around in trucks?

Maybe it is time to create the Slashdot Party?? (4, Funny)

stox (131684) | more than 2 years ago | (#41006169)

That may not be as crazy at it sounds.

Is there a path to the best of both worlds? (3, Interesting)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 2 years ago | (#41006213)

I see two common responses to this:

1) This technology will lead to a loss of privacy and abuses by police, therefore it should be stopped

or

2) This technology will enable police to find and catch criminals more quickly and effectively, therefore it should be allowed.

The truth is, both reactions are correct -- but the issue is typically presented as a tradeoff: we can have our privacy OR better law enforcement, but not both.

But what fun is that? I want both. And since we are all clever Bagginses here on Slashdot, perhaps someone can think of an LPR system that would allow police to track down criminals quickly, and yet still by highly resistant to privacy loss or abuse. I recognize that such a design is non-trivial, but in a world where people come up with clever systems such as BitCoin, I don't think it's necessarily impossible either. It just takes some serious thought, and getting past the "ooh, new technology is scary" stage.

Driving is a privilege not a right (1, Insightful)

bussdriver (620565) | more than 2 years ago | (#41006283)

They can require a great many things of you for being allowed to drive on the public road system. Car insurance for example; you don't have to buy it but then you do not have to drive.

You could be required to have unique IDs on your car for easy identification (aka license plates) and you have no recourse unless you get a huge number of voters together to change that requirement.

If you do not want to be tracked, you will have to use another means of transportation - you have the right to primitive mobility.

Re:Is there a path to the best of both worlds? (2)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 2 years ago | (#41006371)

perhaps someone can think of an LPR system that would allow police to track down criminals quickly, and yet still by highly resistant to privacy loss or abuse.

And who would control this system? Who would fund all this? The government is what comes to mind. I hardly trust them with anything as it is...

It just takes some serious thought, and getting past the "ooh, new technology is scary" stage.

The problem isn't that the new technology is scary; the problem is how it's being used.

They use the same justifications for organizations like the TSA. "Some people are criminals, so everyone must accept a loss of freedom in exchange for what is quite possibly just security theater." They seem to be quite adept at punishing everyone for the actions of a few.

can we use privacy screens to hide plates? (1)

mrterrysilver (826735) | more than 2 years ago | (#41006247)

i was just thinking, would privacy screens (meant for laptops) work on your license plate?

directly behind (police for example) you can see it fine, but directly overhead or from a side angle (cameras) are obscured.

thoughts?

Gee (2)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#41006335)

Your navigating thousands of pounds of metal at high speed with a UUID at least on one end of it, if not two

who would want to keep an eye on that? Fuck I get annoyed by the same GFD hillbilly who is doing 100+ in a 1992 chevy truck with 6 inch pipes sticking out of the back of the cab 2 foot above the roofline every single day. I know their vehicle, shit I even know their license plate, whats the difference if I report it or a camera does?

Yea I am being tracked as well, but theres this thing called an if statement ... if (driver == asshole) flag; else break

overblown (2, Interesting)

slashmydots (2189826) | more than 2 years ago | (#41006357)

My license plate is out there for the world to see. So what? So is my face and my fingerprints. Big freaking deal. People could track people centuries ago, they're just faster now.
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