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"Smart Plates" Could Betray California Drivers' Privacy

timothy posted about a year ago | from the martha-reeves-has-some-'splainin'-to-do dept.

Privacy 262

An anonymous reader writes with news that a California Senate Bill would authorize the state's Department of Motor Vehicles to test a digital registration plate system patented by San Francisco-based Smart Plate Mobile on as many as 160,000 cars. An article on the proposed trial in the Modesto Bee says, in part: "The state hopes the technology will improve efficiencies in vehicle registrations and potentially save the DMV some of the $20 million spent each year in postage for renewals. Privacy advocates say the approach could leave motorists vulnerable to government surveillance by undoing a Supreme Court ruling that required authorities to obtain search warrants before using vehicle tracking devices. 'It means everyone driving in California will have their location accessible to the government at any time,' said Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. In 2010, the Legislature considered a similar bill supported by Smart Plate Mobile, with the noted addition of allowing for scrolling advertisements when a vehicle comes to a stop for four seconds or longer." If only it took smart plates to track you.

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Why is there an assumption of privacy? (5, Insightful)

Kenja (541830) | about a year ago | (#44318577)

While I'm not wild about being tracked, I simply don't feel that I have an assumption of privacy while driving around on a public road.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44318627)

because rabble rabble rabble libertarianism rabble rabble fourth amendment rabble rabble

seriously, there's already a unique ID attached to your car, the same thing can be accomplished by putting some guy on a streetcorner with a camera. if you're that concerned about it, ride a bike.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (1)

Farmer Pete (1350093) | about a year ago | (#44319033)

This just in! California is requiring mandatory "Safety" locator for all bicycles used in the state. The locator will only be used for safety related tasks.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44319219)

because rabble rabble rabble libertarianism rabble rabble fourth amendment rabble rabble

seriously, there's already a unique ID attached to your car, the same thing can be accomplished by putting some guy on a streetcorner with a camera. if you're that concerned about it, ride a bike.

Well, just go ahead and lick the government's boots then while you're at it.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (4, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#44318631)

Stalking in public is illegal. You cannot follow someone around and learn about their travels in public. I'm not sure that analogy applies today.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44319195)

Only if it is considered harassment. And stalking laws do not apply to PIs.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44318645)

How about when walking around in public places?

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44318647)

lol @ liberals..
"I voted for the benevolent dictator and all I got was this panoptic totalitarian police state."

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (2)

cayenne8 (626475) | about a year ago | (#44318801)

I wonder how difficult it would be to *ahem*....de-activate this tech on the plate?

I mean, maybe the power/battery accidently gets disconnected? Maybe a rock or hammer accidentally smashes some critical part of the plate system? What if the plate accidentally passed in front of some random, activated HERF gun [hacknmod.com] ...?

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (5, Interesting)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#44318881)

I wonder how difficult it would be to *ahem*....de-activate this tech on the plate?

I mean, maybe the power/battery accidently gets disconnected? Maybe a rock or hammer accidentally smashes some critical part of the plate system? What if the plate accidentally passed in front of some random, activated HERF gun [hacknmod.com] ...?

I think this plate has an LCD screen that displays your license plate number while you're driving, and public service announcements (and ads of course!) while you're parked.

If you disable it, it will be immediately obvious.

But my question is, do I have to buy another expensive plate when a rock (or vandal) cracks the screen, or will the state pay for it since they are the ones that decided that the electronic plates would 'save money'? They are claiming that the new plates will save money because renewals will be automatically sent to the plate rather than needing someone to mail out a sticker, but I have a hard time believing that this electronic device is cheaper than a metal license plate that can last decades with the only maintenance being putting on a new sticker every year.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (4, Insightful)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about a year ago | (#44319323)

Of course you won't have to pay for it. But your vehicle registration will increase to $500/yr. Just a coincidence.

I've always been !amused by the fact that I need to 'renew' a registration when no information has changed. Selling a car, buying a car, moving a car, all require me to update my registration, but as long as the VIN/Title and the person it is associated with aren't changing, the registration should persist.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (1)

dead_user (1989356) | about a year ago | (#44319523)

Yeah, but people like move and stuff. It's more about keeping accurate voter registration info. The license part is just the impetus to keep the public coming in and registering.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#44319561)

Of course you won't have to pay for it. But your vehicle registration will increase to $500/yr. Just a coincidence.

I've always been !amused by the fact that I need to 'renew' a registration when no information has changed. Selling a car, buying a car, moving a car, all require me to update my registration, but as long as the VIN/Title and the person it is associated with aren't changing, the registration should persist.

In California, most of the renewal "fee" is a tax, so that's why you pay every year, because the government is hungry and needs to be fed often.

I think the reasoning behind the sticker is to prevent a license plate from being valid forever if it's stolen (or you stop paying registration). Without automatic registration lookups, you could easily go for years without anyone noticing that you're driving around on expired plates.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (1, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44318945)

lol @ liberals..
"I voted for the benevolent dictator and all I got was this panoptic totalitarian police state."

It's like the Republicans put this into place, but a Democratic administration was figuring how to use it.

Reminds me of an old political saw: The Democrats invented the Deficit, but the Republicans figured out how to use it.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44319063)

... are you joking? In California, a dramatically liberal-leaning state, the State Senate (68% Democrat) has proposed the adoption of a tech first developed by San Francisco-Based Smart Plate...

And you're really gonna try and somehow bash Republicans for this one? Sorry friend, this one is entirely a Democrat program from start to finish. You didn't need the Republicans to invent police state spying programs for you, you figured it out all on your own.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44319027)

lol @ liberals..
"I voted for the benevolent dictator and all I got was this panoptic totalitarian police state."

lol @ conservatives...

"I voted for the warmongering corporatocracy and all I got was a mountain of national/personal debt and a life of serfdom working at a global bank whose main profit center is sealing houses"

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44319215)

lol @ liberals...

"I voted for my guy because he wasn't a conservative, and all I got was an administration that was completely indistinguishable from the administration the conservative guy would've put in place. But my team is still better!"

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44319489)

At least Obama bothered to pretend the first time around. Do Republicans even try to pretend they're conservative anymore?

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44318653)

Just because you are in public doesn't mean your location should be known by all parties with access to a database.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (1)

Alastor187 (593341) | about a year ago | (#44319171)

Just because you are in public doesn't mean your location should be known by all parties with access to a database.

I think the unreasonable part is storing of the data. I see this technology very similar to a 'speed trap', where passing cars are locally affected. Generally speaking 'speed traps' are accepted as a reasonable police practice. However, if in addition to checking speed the police also uniquely identified each vehicle and then stored the date, time, location, speed...etc, the action would be significantly more intrusive if not unlawful.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44318655)

While I'm not wild about being tracked, I simply don't feel that I have an assumption of privacy while driving around on a public road.

It's an illusion held by the paranoid or genuinely guilty.

But think about this ... by order of the Supreme Court the police can't keep and share tracking information, unless there's a search warrant. Nothing bars private companies putting plate scanners out there to keep track of where you go.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (2)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about a year ago | (#44318825)

Nothing bars private companies putting plate scanners out there to keep track of where you go.

Except for the fact the scanners have to be somewhere, and being on public property would require a permit and approval from the government. Scanners placed on private property would be legal with the landowners permission, but you would need landowners that don't care about privacy. Scanners on commercial premises, other than those operated by the business itself for its own safety, would probably drive away a high enough ratio of customers that the business would not allow the private company put any scanners there either.

On top of all that, how long would any scanner be in place before it is stolen or destroyed?

So, while there are not laws about private companies doing this, it wouldn't be a simple process for them.

Also, if it did come to pass that a private company did this, there would be dozens following on their heels. Then the people would demand laws against just this situation. Not guaranteed they would get them, but any city or state legislature could outlaw the practice right after millions of dollars are spent installing the devices.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (3, Informative)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44319005)

On public property?!? Who said anything about that? Dang, haven't you ever see a billboard ?!?

You think private enterprise couldn't do the same thing, renting a few square feet of land or roof top to place a scanner? Heck, they could put these things in billboards, perfect spot already staked out. Watch your car go by, share info, know where you frequent, when you are there, etc. You think the tracking of your web surfing habits can't be extended out from the screen into the physical environment?!?

*facepalm*

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (2)

Farmer Pete (1350093) | about a year ago | (#44319101)

digital billboards that use prisms to target personal adds to each car. You were web searching for a new pair of shoes last night, so on your commute to work, you keep seeing Nike, Zappos, and ADIDAS everywhere. It'll happen. Just give it time.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44319297)

digital billboards that use prisms to target personal adds to each car. You were web searching for a new pair of shoes last night, so on your commute to work, you keep seeing Nike, Zappos, and ADIDAS everywhere. It'll happen. Just give it time.

Exactly.

If Google or Facebook can haul in billions in revenues from tracking you across the web, this is the next step and it's wide open. Someone has probably already been working on it.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (2)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#44319627)

digital billboards that use prisms to target personal adds to each car. You were web searching for a new pair of shoes last night, so on your commute to work, you keep seeing Nike, Zappos, and ADIDAS everywhere. It'll happen. Just give it time.

They already have digital billboards that can detect what radio station you're listening to and target ads based on the demographics of that station:

http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/science-fiction-news.asp?newsnum=981 [technovelgy.com]

It's probably only a matter of time (or perhaps it's already here) before they snoop cell phone signals to figure out who you are so they can target the ad.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#44319139)

Nothing bars private companies putting plate scanners out there to keep track of where you go.

Except for the fact the scanners have to be somewhere, and being on public property would require a permit and approval from the government. Scanners placed on private property would be legal with the landowners permission, but you would need landowners that don't care about privacy. Scanners on commercial premises, other than those operated by the business itself for its own safety, would probably drive away a high enough ratio of customers that the business would not allow the private company put any scanners there either.

Yea, $Deity help us all the day some private company or government agency learns about the concept of bribery.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (4, Interesting)

LocalH (28506) | about a year ago | (#44318901)

It's an illusion held by the paranoid or genuinely guilty.

This is the mainstream mindset, ladies and gentlemen. Those who are concerned about privacy from the government as a default stance, even in public, are "paranoid or genuinely guilty". Yup. No room for the truly innocent to object on moral grounds, if you object to the government being able to track you then you must have something to hide, and to people like this that is the excuse they will then use to violate your privacy in a much worse way. "What have you got to hide, Citizen? SUBMIT"

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (3, Informative)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44319109)

It's an illusion held by the paranoid or genuinely guilty.

This is the mainstream mindset, ladies and gentlemen. Those who are concerned about privacy from the government as a default stance, even in public, are "paranoid or genuinely guilty". Yup. No room for the truly innocent to object on moral grounds, if you object to the government being able to track you then you must have something to hide, and to people like this that is the excuse they will then use to violate your privacy in a much worse way. "What have you got to hide, Citizen? SUBMIT"

You missed the key word up there. I'll highlight it for you.

We have limited privacy. We have phone numbers, email addresses, house numbers, apartment units, SSNs, Drivers Licence numbers, credit card numbers, etc. We have been tracked, recorded and our info shared for decades. It's only increasing now as the storage and processing means have reached a level necessary to maintain our info. The speed with which Philip Markoff, the Craigslist Killer, was tracked and apprehended should have made that clear.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44319441)

It's an illusion held by the paranoid or genuinely guilty.

"What have you got to hide, Citizen? SUBMIT"

Actually we all have something to hide. As Moxie Marlinspike recently wrote:

Our neighbour's eight year old daughter also chalks up the sidewalk (and
then plays hopscotch on what she drew), I wonder if she too should get
thirteen years:

http://tinyurl.com/qhstckc
http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/06/27/occupy-wall-street-protester-could-face-up-to-13-years-in-jail-13000-fine-for-writing-anti-bank-messages-in-chalk/

This is reminds me of a good counter-point made by Moxie Marlinspike to
the "nothing to hide" argument regarding privacy:

> For instance, did you know that it is a federal crime to be in possession
> of a lobster under a certain size? It doesn't matter if you bought it at
> a grocery store, if someone else gave it to you, if it's dead or alive,
> if you found it after it died of natural causes, or even if you killed it
> while acting in self defense. You can go to jail because of a lobster.
>
> If the federal government had access to every email you've ever written
> and every phone call you've ever made, it's almost certain that they
> could find something you've done which violates a provision in the 27,000
> pages of federal statues or 10,000 administrative regulations. You
> probably do have something to hide, you just don't know it yet.

http://www.thoughtcrime.org/blog/we-should-all-have-something-to-hide/
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/16/3372 (lobster law)

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (4, Insightful)

buswolley (591500) | about a year ago | (#44319657)

I've said this before.

There are so many laws on the books that we are all guilty of a great many things. There are so many laws, I doubt you could drive from LA to SF without being guilty of a crime that could land you in prison and cost you thousands in fines. There are sooooooo many laws you don't know exist..

If we are all guilty, who are the ones that get punished?

The weak, the brown, or any other people the police decide they don't like.

With so many laws, its about selective enforcement, and with a surveillance state welll....they'll catch you if they don't like you.

We are all guilty. And the only all seeing, all knowing judge I could tolerate would be a just and forgiving God.

so if you are white and agree with the politics of the 1%, no worries.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44319545)

You're missing the point... it's not that people who are *concerned* about privacy are paranoid or guilty... but only the paranoid or guilty (or uninformed, I'd add) actually believe they are currently *legally entitled* to privacy while they are in public.

Thus, the notion that "knowing where my car is on a public street is a violation of my privacy" is an "illusion"... because it's simply not true.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44319577)

Along those same lines, no one has yet to say anything about the recklessness by which most police dept. act. It's this recklessness, in fact, that has lead to needing such alternative measurements to monitor citizens anyway. In the wake of this recklessness comes a lot of potential problems when the police get the wrong idea from the gathered data.

What happens when:
someone gets lost, ends up in the wrong part of town...
rented cars are used for drug deals
license plate is stolen
hackers unite!

Anytime "stronger technology" is used to do mundane things that aren't even that big of an issue anyway, you should start expecting the worst. In Alabama, they have taken steps to directly connect your license plate with your proof of insurance. So when you get pulled over, you no longer have to have proof of insurance, because the police have that info when they pull up your license plate. This was done by having everyone log into a website, and provide their insurance information. It took me 2 minutes to do 2 vehicles.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (1)

Joiseybill (788712) | about a year ago | (#44319225)

Tracking info, no. But static location info is not protected.

Red light camera footage is routinely archived and saved - even posted on YouTube as "safety" messages, or info-ads for the camera mfrs.
This archiving is against the law.(But no penalty is in place to enforce the data destruction!)
http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2018570960_redlightcameras01m.html [seattletimes.com]
http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2008/Bills/PL09/52_.HTM [state.nj.us]
Police vehicles are routinely outfitted with plate-recognition devices. Parking authorities use them to identify scofflaws; Routine police investigations will canvas the area of a crime, recording plates in order to develop a list of potential witnesses/suspects; patrol cars use them to alert on any match with stolen car registries or amber/silver alerts.

With many hundreds of static collection locations, it becomes easy to infer the general paths taken between these points. The tracking device becomes a redundant dongle - adding expense to the motorist who ultimately has to pay for all this added technology, and inviting tinkering/hacking to provide unreliable data back to the collectors.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (5, Insightful)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about a year ago | (#44318683)

Of course there's no assumption of privacy when you are in public. But would you want a cop to stand outside every store and bar, taking pictures of every person entering and leaving, and noting what they are carrying at the time? Would you want a cop to follow you everywhere you go, talking to a radio show that is broadcasting it live to the entire city?

This isn't a case of "privacy while in public", this is a case of "being tracked everywhere you go", and generally the reason given is "for the public good", with "saving the taxpayers money" and "think of the children" thrown in as needed.

So if you are "not wild about being tracked", why are you downplaying this attempt at tracking every driver anywhere they go?

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (2)

jythie (914043) | about a year ago | (#44318815)

A variation of that, there are groups out there that photograph and try to 'shame' people going to adult stores. Imagine if they were allowed to access such a database....

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44318845)

I have trouble believing this. Can you provide a citation?

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44318943)

What's that churches name? Westborrow Batptists... or something? With people out there like that, I don't think its too far of a jump to believe there's some conservative group out there trying to shame you into being pure of heart; and even if there isn't now, there could be.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44318957)

Kinda like "pics or it didn't happen?"

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (3, Informative)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about a year ago | (#44319401)

I have trouble believing this. Can you provide a citation?

It is commonplace. Here is a quick example of people doing it at an abortion clinic.

http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=130243&page=1 [go.com]

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (5, Interesting)

classiclantern (2737961) | about a year ago | (#44319199)

Because of a thing called the Bill of Rights. You can't have free speech without anonymity, and the government has taken that away from us. You can't have freedom of assembly without anonymous movement, and the government has taken that away from us. The government has effectively taken away our Constitutional rights. BTW Mr. Here, our computer puts your vehicle in the vicinity of several known drug dealer's vehicles. That's enough probable cause to get a warrant to search your house, shoot your dog, and plant some evidence. We will be right over.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44318731)

While I'm not wild about being tracked, I simply don't feel that I have an assumption of privacy while driving around on a public road.

Phone calls pass through wires owned by multiple companies. Why should you have an expectation of privacy?

Your phone billing information is (was?) seen by a whole lot of people. Why should you have an expectation of privacy?

Sound inside your house makes your windows vibrate, and those vibrations can be detected outside your house. Why should you have an expectation of privacy?

Finally, IT'S THE FUCKING GOVERNMENT! WHY DO THE NEED THIS?

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44318743)

While there is no legal assumption of privacy in such heavily public areas as malls and highways, there is an instinctive difference between "someone could see me here" and "someone is watching and tracking me." If for no other reason than the latter triggers deep self-preservation instincts, while the former tends to just inspire either caution or recklessness depending on how addicted the individual is to attention.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (1)

jythie (914043) | about a year ago | (#44318775)

Privacy probably is not the right word. When out in public you automatically loose a lot of the privacy (and protection) compared to when you are on private land with visual barriers. However, a centralized tracking tool with unknown record keeping lengths and unknown access control is another matter. It is one thing to be seen in public, it is another for people sitting in a private environment (thus not subject to being seen themselves) and press a button to see your movements over who knows how long.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44318903)

Many of the responses are missing the point. The question was "Why is there an assumption of privacy?" not "Should we have a reasonable level of privacy?". Since we are monitored six ways from Sunday by the federal government, state government and commercial enterprises, it is ridiculous to assume that we have much privacy anymore.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (4, Insightful)

JBMcB (73720) | about a year ago | (#44318931)

Key word is assumption.

You have an assumption of privacy in your house. You do not in public.

That does not mean you do NOT have a right to privacy while in public.

I like John C. Dvorak's take on the issue. Cops are lazy. They'd love to have a computer spit out suspects based on tracking everyone everywhere so they don't have to go out and do actual police work - collective evidence, interviewing witnesses, etc...

The end result of tracking everyone will be - you were the only person driving down the street when this crime happened, so you must be guilty. Sure someone could have walked or rode a bike - but cops usually go with the evidence they have.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44318939)

The assumption comes from the fact that tracking people used to take effort. You wanted to follow someone around without being noticed, you had to hire professionals to do the following around for you. Let's say three 8 hour shifts, 2-3 people per shift to evade countersurveillance. That's a lot of effort and money involved. And once get out in the open and the victim has it real easy to notice your goons. The idea that you could invisibly follow everyone everywhere 24/7 therefore was simply ludicrous, hence something you did not have to defend against.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44319097)

I propose the vehicles of the politicians, both public-provided and their own private vehicles including those of their immediate family, be the first to be adorned with these "smart plates" and run the trial for at least 5 years with a mandatory 5 year post-trial study of the results. By then all the politicians should have been charged, arrested, and convicted of numerous crimes and highway traffic act violations plus most of their illicit affairs will have been captured on the basis of GPS coordinates and time-of-day stamps. The People have a right to privacy. The politicians have no such inalienable right.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (1)

WaffleMonster (969671) | about a year ago | (#44319099)

While I'm not wild about being tracked, I simply don't feel that I have an assumption of privacy while driving around on a public road.

I think this misses the point.

There seems to be a difference between being noticed in a public space where anyone including a LEO may note your presence and storing and aggregating records of all of your movements in "public" for all of time. Stalking for example is illegal in every state of the union.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about a year ago | (#44319265)

I think there is a serious problem when expectations of privacy can be voided by laws which can force disclosure of private information.

If there was a law passed which said that letters could only be sent in clear plastic envelopes then you couldn't expect the contents of those letters to be private either. The real catch is that the only reason you don't have an expectation of privacy is that the law currently requires you to behave in a manner which makes privacy harder to ensure.

Of course, that is all beside the point that just because something is technically possible, doesn't mean it must be allowed (or encouraged). I like to use the example of postal mail because when you send a letter you really have no mechanism to prevent the mail carrier from opening the letter and reading/recording the contents. We as a people decided that we did not want to allow that so we declared that someone opening a letter not addressed to them to be a violation of law.

We take things which are 'public' and put them into private via laws all the time. Someone using a telephoto lens to peer into your windows is illegal in most jurisdictions, even though you have no reason to believe that such a thing is not possible. Medical records are a BIG example as well. What's preventing your medical records from being copied and posted publicly? Nothing other than a law against such behavior.

I am not the only person who doesn't want a database to be compiled from my location data and available 24x7, so I pressure my legislators to pass laws which prohibit such collection of data. So again, expectation of privacy can be reinforced by law.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year ago | (#44319475)

While I'm not wild about being tracked, I simply don't feel that I have an assumption of privacy while driving around on a public road.

And, unless they're different than Florida with its OnePass toll system, a lot of Californians are already driving around with machine-readable IDs attached to their automobiles.

I don't expect privacy these days. I just want the people who collect the data to use it responsibly. Preferably, that means not at all. Unless I rob a bank, anyway.

Re:Why is there an assumption of privacy? (2)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#44319511)

While I'm not wild about being tracked, I simply don't feel that I have an assumption of privacy while driving around on a public road.

There's a big difference between privacy and tracking.

If the police want to sit outside of a known brothel and record license numbers of all of the cars that visit there, well it's a public place and if they want to sit there and write down license numbers, that's fine. My wife could do the same thing, so I shouldn't park there if I don't want anyone to know.

But if they are doing detailed enough tracking to record all of the cars that went to a known Tea Party rally (or whatever political or social group has been deemed the enemy of the parties in power), then they can look for clusters of those same cars attending smaller (and 'secret') political strategy meetings and in turn track all of the cars at those meetings and find the intersections to map out the entire membership of the group (as opposed to just those that went to the rally). That's much more invasive monitoring and it's something that the police wouldn't otherwise be able to do without ubiquitous license plate monitoring unless they devoted so much manpower to it to make it virtually impossible do to on a routine basis -- electronic monitoring removes much of the friction that prevents overbearing monitoring by the government.

And worse, the data never goes away, so if you attended an event 10 years ago that's now been deemed politically unpopular, your attendance of the event can be used against you.

Living in California... (3, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44318595)

I'd love the police to just be able to scan vehicles to see which are active, which plates do not match vehicles and which vehicles have insurance.

We are plagued by people who do not have valid registrations, borrow or steal plates and have no insurance.

Bust 'em on the spot.

Re:Living in California... (2)

bhlowe (1803290) | about a year ago | (#44318823)

But that would be raaaaccciiiisttt..

Racism and crime (2)

coyote_oww (749758) | about a year ago | (#44318979)

It's racist to assume that people violating the law are a particular race. You just have to stop thinking altogether, or you're racist.

Re:Racism and crime (1)

bhlowe (1803290) | about a year ago | (#44319449)

Many crimes ARE committed by different races in unequal percentages. Facts are not assumptions. The gist is this would impact unlicensed, uninsured, undocumented and the poor harder than other groups.

Re:Living in California... (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44318921)

cops in usa don't have that? in uk at least they seem to. ocr.

but anyhow.. where was that case of coppers putting a tracking device on a car and arguing they didn't need a warrant?

Re:Living in California... (4, Informative)

steveg (55825) | about a year ago | (#44319367)

The Supreme Court said they were wrong.

Unanimously.

Re:Living in California... (3, Insightful)

Spy Handler (822350) | about a year ago | (#44318929)

I agree we have too many unlicensed/uninsured drivers in CA. But the cure they propose is worse than the disease.

If you put in place all the pieces required for massive surveillance on citizens, sooner or later somebody in power will abuse it. Most likely sooner than later.

The price of freedom is not just eternal vigilance, it's also the willingness to put up with inconveniences. Such as having illegal aliens with no insurance ding up your car.

Re:Living in California... (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | about a year ago | (#44318955)

Take away the cars, you take away their jobs. You pay for welfare or prison.

Re:Living in California... (1)

egamma (572162) | about a year ago | (#44319037)

I'd love the police to just be able to scan vehicles to see which are active, which plates do not match vehicles and which vehicles have insurance.

We are plagued by people who do not have valid registrations, borrow or steal plates and have no insurance.

Bust 'em on the spot.

This would make it more difficult for criminals to steal cars; they'd have to take some extra time to disable the tracking device and put some out-of-state plates on the car.

Re:Living in California... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44319159)

You care so much about this that you are willing to have all of your movements tracked? Why?

privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44318597)

who here thinks that licensure and displayed serial numbering EVER intended to protect privacy?

"Name Tags" could betray anonymity!

Re:privacy? (2)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44318697)

who here thinks that licensure and displayed serial numbering EVER intended to protect privacy?

"Name Tags" could betray anonymity!

As one example of how police wanted to share this info... A CHP car is sitting at a ramp, tracking cars going by, all doing the speed limit, but posting the info to central computer. Another CHP car is sitting 20 miles down the highway at another ramp, scanning cars coming by and comparing time and information held in the central computer. Simple math and you find who has been speeding between points.

Re:privacy? (0)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about a year ago | (#44318753)

I'm not sure that is a BAD use of the data.
If speeding laws are stupid then we should address that issue.
The same thing could be accomplished with a couple cops with stop watches.
If simple math proves you broke the law, I can't really drum up the outrage in this case.
I really tried though... but it IS thursday....

Re:privacy? (1)

bhlowe (1803290) | about a year ago | (#44318807)

Good point. On the other hand, it wouldn't take long for people to start driving the speed limit..

Re:privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44319141)

Or, conversely, become incredibly invested in lobbying their representatives to get the speed limit changed.

Or, in a dramatic departure, finally just saying "fuck it, I'll ride public transportation."

Re:privacy? (1)

coyote_oww (749758) | about a year ago | (#44319013)

This is done in the UK right now. Only with cameras, and the ticket is mailed to you, saving the expense of two cars and six police officer salaries required for 24/7 coverage.

Re:privacy? (1)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#44319125)

almost every state has a 10mph grace before you get a ticket

if they time you going way over the limit, you deserve it

Re:privacy? (1)

Farmer Pete (1350093) | about a year ago | (#44319279)

They don't do this with toll booths, I can't imagine they would do it with license plate recognition. If they want to grab you for speeding, they have a bagillion tools already at their disposal that they aren't using.

Re:privacy? (2)

plover (150551) | about a year ago | (#44319611)

As far as I know, the police are legally prohibited from using many of those kinds of tools.

I'm setting the wayback machine for more years than I should, but I recall being told they used to do exactly this at the toll booths. You'd get a toll slip stating the time when you entered the turnpike, you'd drive the road, then when you paid your toll, the cashier would look at the timestamp. If you arrived before it could have been possible had you been following the posted speed limit, a nearby cop walked up to the booth and you were handed a speeding ticket. As you approached a tollbooth at the end of a long stretch of a turnpike, it was apparently common to see cars parked on the side of the road, waiting for the clock to run down so they wouldn't get a ticket.

Eventually it was contested in court, and it was determined that because the police officer didn't actually witness you at the time you took the toll slip as well as the time you turned it in, he had no proof you were the driver during the time when the speeding event occurred so the ticket was invalid. For a similar reason, the old "ribbon radar" speed traps that local police used to set in small towns were contested and ultimately thrown out. I think these practices were ended sometime in the 1960s.

Re:privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44319461)

this is a "speed trap" and is illegal by California law.

The CHP planes used to measure your 1 mile times against your car and big white lines painted perpendicular on the shoulder. Now they can "pace" you, but a time / distance measurement is illegal and your ticket will be thrown away.

Let's all pay our "fair share" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44318605)

Don't these governments deserve even more tax revenue to use against us?

Good idea (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44318611)

I'm sure all the Twits and Faceplanters will eat it up.

digital screen can easily get damaged (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#44318613)

On cars / trucks just by being out side outdoor signs alleys seems to have at parts of the them not working.

Re:digital screen can easily get damaged (4, Funny)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about a year ago | (#44318859)

I have a question for you.

Do you type your postings in a foreign (non-western European at that) language in Google Translate, then paste the results here?

Root your license plate? (2)

getto man d (619850) | about a year ago | (#44318633)

If you can root your license plate, does it affect your wanted level?

Re:Root your license plate? (1)

Mahldcat (1129757) | about a year ago | (#44319085)

....or what would be cool is to figure out how to at the push of a button (or the brake) to get it to clear out for those times when they decide to nail people with red light cameras....

Re:Root your license plate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44319205)

I'll just buy a horse team and wagon just after selling my car so the "authorities" cannot track where the horse team and wagon were purchased.

Wow, Modesto Bee on slashdot (2)

grasshoppa (657393) | about a year ago | (#44318661)

Well, now I've seen everything. Time to hang it up and get off this crazy thing they call the "Interwebs".

Re:Wow, Modesto Bee on slashdot (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44318895)

Well, now I've seen everything. Time to hang it up and get off this crazy thing they call the "Interwebs".

Really! Consider how yesterday we had an article about Valley Fever around Avenal from the BBC. Now we're getting closer to the source. I think this may be the start of an invasion of privacy. You know, like when you find a Slashdot camera duct-taped outside your front door.

Re:Wow, Modesto Bee on slashdot (1)

grasshoppa (657393) | about a year ago | (#44318999)

Trust me, "getting closer to the source" doesn't do you any good. That just means you are getting a native's perspective. As I must, sadly, identify myself in that group, let me warn you in advanced; we natives are small minded, intelligence fearing simpletons. In general.

Point being, trusting a newspaper closer to the source is like trusting the "Weekly World News" about, well, world news. Sure, you *can* do that, but you have every reason not to.

why is this such a problem? (1)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#44318693)

in NYS i've had the same plates for 10 years, now on my 4th car in that time frame. every two years i pay $170 for a window sticker to register my car with the state. when i buy a new car i pay the DMV to transfer the registration to my new car

what is the point in new license plates and how is this costing so much money?

Easier to spoof? (1)

Mahldcat (1129757) | about a year ago | (#44318713)

It strikes me...wouldn't enterprising people figure out ways to spoof/clone the signals sent out in some manner? What is scary is given the nature of how these systems get implemented + human nature...how soon before they also accuse somebody of something based entirely on the data collected by these "smart plates" versus actual eyeballs on target? Now the best thing in my book if this were to go through? Figure out how to spoof the plates, and target all of those folks who sponsored and approved the bill, make it look like they had a habit of visiting the most odious of places, and then leak that data to the press...

Issues with money... (3, Interesting)

Capt James McCarthy (860294) | about a year ago | (#44318739)

" potentially save the DMV some of the $20 million spent each year in postage for renewals."

Why would it safe the DMV money. Isn't that paid for when you pay for the registration anyways as part of the fee/tax?
I have no issue with it, but the savings should be passed to those paying the bills, not for the govt to keep. But they love taking and keeping our money.

Re:Issues with money... (1)

jittles (1613415) | about a year ago | (#44319143)

" potentially save the DMV some of the $20 million spent each year in postage for renewals."

Why would it safe the DMV money. Isn't that paid for when you pay for the registration anyways as part of the fee/tax? I have no issue with it, but the savings should be passed to those paying the bills, not for the govt to keep. But they love taking and keeping our money.

My assumption is they still want to charge you postage/labor for mailing out the registration sticker, but not actually mail anything. So they don't intend to pass the cost savings (if there really are any) to the customer, but instead make more money in taxes.

Re:Issues with money... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44319153)

/AGREE

The cost of my registration pays for the postage for them to mail me a sticker.

Jerry Brown campaign contributor anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44319415)

He's from SF, was Mayor of Oakland, and I imagine has quite some ties there. Suspicious how this is getting pushed through during his term, no?

Privacy! Privacy! Privacy! (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44318769)

It's gone... Forget about it. It's up to us to demand and acquire the same transparency from the state as it demands from us. Wake me up when you people decide to vote for somebody that can show respect. Otherwise you're a bunch of whiny fools.

But think of the USPS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44318831)

potentially save the DMV some of the $20 million spent each year in postage for renewals

If they stop mailing all that stuff, the post office is going to fall behind even further.

I for one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44318905)

welcome our smart-plate overlords!

Power? (3, Interesting)

magarity (164372) | about a year ago | (#44318927)

Where does the power come from for these scrolling advertisements? Will be owner be required to supply a wiring kit to hook it up? Otherwise, how long would a battery last; in an LA traffic jam these plates are going to be running ads for hours at a time.

Re:Power? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44319231)

Am I required to provide power? Power is not free. Do these ads subsidise my GAS?

Granted, it doesn't take much gas to generate power in the long run of operating a car, but, you can't tell me that power is free. My gas turns pulleys under my hood. One of these pulleys is connected to an alternator. Under load, this causes the pulley to resist the engine's force. It's a SMALL load, but, state wide, we could be wasting $1000's maybe even $100000's on GAS to power an ad for ACIDENTES!!! 222-2222

That being said, do I HAVE to provide 12VDC? what about 6V from my old BUG? 24V from my truck? 110AC from my inverter? 220 from my other inverter?

Re:Power? (1)

plover (150551) | about a year ago | (#44319645)

That being said, do I HAVE to provide 12VDC? what about 6V from my old BUG? 24V from my truck? 110AC from my inverter? 220 from my other inverter?

I think you should provide 15 kV from a neon transformer, and see how well their circuitry likes being overclocked.

Smart technology isn't always smart (1)

grantspassalan (2531078) | about a year ago | (#44319089)

Smart license plates, smart cars, smart phones, smart meters, smart tollbooths, smart appliances and who knows smart everything else are perhaps not always so smart after all. Maybe what we need is smart people, especially in government. There seems to be a shortage of those these days. Is there a "smartness" conservation law that ensures that the smartness in the universe remains constant? Are gadgets becoming "smarter" while people are becoming dumber?

It's not the tracking in and of itself. (2)

Virtucon (127420) | about a year ago | (#44319223)

It's the data collection process and what is used with that data. With Data Mining techniques getting more sophisticated any tracking or automated data collection process, such as license plate scanners erode our privacy. Sure, if you have outstanding tickets or a warrant out for your arrest, an automated system for identifying your vehicle would be beneficial however we start casting bigger and bigger fishing nets and a lot of innocent fish get caught by the same net. How do you ensure that all that data for non-offenders gets removed or does it become another source of information that the government can use to track you? How often were you parked on this street? Oh we say you go over a bridge 50 times? It's a fine line that we cross in the names of efficiencies brought to bear to "reduce costs." There's already a report that the IRS has a system that allows state governments to access private information in the name of efficiency even though nobody in Congress has ever apparently approved such a system. [washingtontimes.com]

Bring it on! (5, Interesting)

kiick (102190) | about a year ago | (#44319289)

I for one would love to have a smart license plate. Just think of the hacking opportunities!

Jailbreak your license plate and display snarky messages to the other drivers on the road. Change your state to "confusion". Temporarily change your plate number and see how many red light cameras you can trip in a row. "Borrow" your rude neighbor's id and run up their toll bill. Steal a smart plate and hack it so you don't have to pay to register your vehicle. The possibilities are endless.

Any "smart" whatever can and will be hacked. If the incentives are large enough, those hacks will get widely distributed and used. How many incidents of license plate hacking will it take before the police decide it's just an expensive way to enable smart criminals? Not too many, I'd guess.

Another ability the state will have and not use. (1)

ai4px (1244212) | about a year ago | (#44319393)

Here in South Carolina, we have many running around with expired tags and the police do nothing about it. Insurance companies notify the state when a policy is cancelled and the state is supposed to send you a letter requiring you turn in your tags. So you don't and they don't do anything about it. The police all but ignore no tags and expired tags which are so easy to spot, So we need "smart tags" that allow me to renew my tag without postage? Are you kidding me? The problem here is not the postage... it is people not complying with the law and the state not doing a damn thing about it.

Special CA license plates are not in the system (4, Interesting)

schwit1 (797399) | about a year ago | (#44319395)

http://www.infowars.com/special-license-plates-shield-officials-from-traffic-tickets/ [infowars.com]

California Department of Motor Vehicles' "Confidential Records Program," which was created 30 years ago to keep DMV records of police officers private from criminals. The program has since expanded to cover "hundreds of thousands of public employees - from police dispatchers to museum guards - who face little threat from the public. Their spouses and children can get the plates, too.

City wide 'Car Pools' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44319591)

If 1000 drivers get together and pool their vehicles Big Brother won't really have much of a clue about who is driving what car when.
Sitcking it 'to the man' like all good hippies

{yes I am old enough to have taken part in the Hippy era having been born in 1948.}

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