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ACLU Protests Police Scanning License Plates

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the drift-net-fishing-expedition dept.

Privacy 821

dustman81 writes "The ACLU is objecting to the practice of police in Springdale, Ohio using an automated license-plate scanner on patrol cars to locate stolen vehicles or those whose owners are wanted on felony warrants. The scanner can read 900 license plates an hour traveling at highway speeds. So far, the scanner has located 95 stolen cars and helped locate 111 wanted felons. The locations of the license plates scanned are tagged with GPS data. All matches are stored (with no expiration date given) and can be brought up later and cross-referenced on a map. If the plate is wanted, the times and locations of where it was scanned can be referenced. The Springdale police department hopes to begin using the system soon to locate misdemeanor suspects. This system is also in use in British Columbia."

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And they're going to lose.. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20038083)

It's a state-issued plate, and it's designed to be publicly viewable and even photographable in many areas (where photo blocking equipment is illegal). This is really not much different than officers looking at plats normally, just more efficient. Next up? GPS tagging plates.

Re:And they're going to lose.. (1, Troll)

TeraCo (410407) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038091)

Is it the efficiency or the fact that crimes are being solved that the ACLU is objecting to?

Re:And they're going to lose.. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20038113)

Fucking die you piece of shit.

Re:And they're going to lose.. (1, Insightful)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038137)

Officially, the former; off the record, probably the latter. After all, they don't object to the existence of license plates, do they? Or to marking them as being on stolen cars? Or to police officers doing there due diligence in watching for stolen cars that they pass by in public.

Re:And they're going to lose.. (2)

theurge14 (820596) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038139)

It's the slipper slope that comes with something like this in the hands of the government.

You know, the same government that has already been through things like racial profiling stops, things like that.

Re:And they're going to lose.. (2, Interesting)

seriesrover (867969) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038265)

The slippery slope arguement is completely over used. There are scenarios in which it is valid but in this instance its a bolloxy point. The police are just automating an existing manual and lengthy process. If this ever continues down the slippery slope to an unconstitutional situation then thats the time to challenge it in court, but not before.


I would have a lot more sympathy if the ACLU showed some signs of common sense once in a while.

Re:And they're going to lose.. (2, Insightful)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038379)

It's the slipper slope that comes with something like this in the hands of the government.

Ah yes, the slippery slope argument. Hell, if you are going to use it, USE IT! Why not block the police use of patrol cars, guns, computers, substations since they can be abused. Hell, go all out! Why should the mayor have his own personal army to suppress the public? Maybe we should block the formation of a police force entirely since it is very possible for the mayor to abuse the power to gain even MORE power.

Wait. The people elect the mayor. The people could abuse the power of the polling station for ill gotten gains....

Re:And they're going to lose.. (2)

Ticklemonster (736987) | more than 6 years ago | (#20038563)

Racial profiling works. I don't see why there's a big deal about it. If some 49 year old white dude fitting my description commits a crime, and I walk past a cop who has a description of the perp, and he doesn't give me a second look, there's something seriously wrong with that. Now just stopping people because of the way they look is dumb. I mean if you grab a bunch of merry makers in a bank vault on a Saturday night just because they're black, that's totally wrong. (sarcasm, folks. Oh, and how about that noob who tagged me as a troll go back to digg already.)

Re:And they're going to lose.. (5, Insightful)

Secret Rabbit (914973) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038141)

Let me see, tracking and (indefinitely) storing the travel patterns of EVERYONE. No that's not objectionable. Not at all...

Re:And they're going to lose.. (1)

Mister Kay (1119377) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038343)

That's as to say that can't already pretty much be done by tracking your credit transactions. I'm sure no one here has ever had their credit card blocked due to shopping somewhere they don't normally shop. I mean, I know that didn't happen when I bought my computer speakers two cities over.

Re:And they're going to lose.. (4, Insightful)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038415)

I won't object to it as long as I can recored the location and activities of the cops, and store that indefinitely

Re:And they're going to lose.. (4, Insightful)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038145)

I believe it is the cataloging the time and location of thousands of innocent people which is causing the problem.

But after all, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

Re:And they're going to lose.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20038199)

yeah, but i can sit on my front porch and do the same thing legally. i guess people only have a problem when it's law enforcement that can do the same things i can legally do.

Re:And they're going to lose.. (3, Insightful)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038411)

yeah, but i can sit on my front porch and do the same thing legally.

Yes, and you'd be a creep for doing it.

i guess people only have a problem when it's law enforcement that can do the same things i can legally do.

Probably because people don't want the police getting too accustomed to acting like creeps all the time.

Re:And they're going to lose.. (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 6 years ago | (#20038567)

yeah, but i can sit on my front porch and do the same thing legally. i guess people only have a problem when it's law enforcement that can do the same things i can legally do.

Uh, wrong. [slashdot.org]

Re:And they're going to lose.. (2)

feepness (543479) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038363)

But after all, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.


And if I'm walking on the street an officer can see me... but if I'm not doing anything wrong... I've got nothing to fear, right?

Sorry, cars = walking around in public. The information has always been there, and they could have recorded it if they liked. So it's nothing new.

Re:And they're going to lose.. (1)

Wanderer1 (47145) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038465)

Consider the impact of perfect memory and omniscience of a select group of individuals over everyone's movements within a city or region. *That* is new. And *that* is subject to abuse or incompetence.

You don't have anything to hide today, but you might have something to hide tomorrow.

W

It is about automating it. (3, Interesting)

khasim (1285) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038477)

Here, read up on cops who commit crimes.
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/conductunbecoming/ [nwsource.com]

Yes, a cop on the street can follow you around and record where you go and when. But you would be able to see him doing that. You would know.

More importantly, the cop would have to skip other crimes to pursue you.

The information has always been there, and they could have recorded it if they liked. So it's nothing new.

And the Gatling gun wasn't anything new compared to the musket. Yet it certainly changed land warfare.

Sometimes increasing the speed of an action does change the situation. And automating data collection on people NOT accused of a crime does change the situation.

The end of our rights? (4, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038449)

Like the wiretapping, the real issue is the lose of privacy and damage to our rights. In particular, the storage of plates numbers with locations is bothersome. I do not like the idea that the police can recall where any car was at. But if the system tries to locate a positive and then discards all else, well, it sounds useful to me.

As to the fast scan of all cars that the vehicle passes, personally, I am trying to figure out why the ACLU is fighting that. For the life of me, I would think that it makes things safer since it allows police to drive and observe other issues rather than pay heavy attention to cars.

Re:And they're going to lose.. (5, Insightful)

Cassius Corodes (1084513) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038153)

Probably the fact that they can keep track of the travels of anyone caught in these cameras - which could be misused to blackmail etc. I can see the benefit of this - but there needs to be controls on it so that they are deleted from the system after a while and that access is carefully monitored. Given the government's usual incompetence I can see why the ACLU is not very trusting.

Re:And they're going to lose.. (1)

thc69 (98798) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038171)

Did you even read the summary? The first couple sentences sounded great to me; it sounded like the machine would go "beep" if someone from the "most wanted" list was nearby and the cop could chase him down. Then it turns out that they're tracking everyone and going to hassle everbody who has ever committed any petty little crime.

All matches are stored (with no expiration date given) and can be brought up later and cross-referenced on a map. If the plate is wanted, the times and locations of where it was scanned can be referenced.
They're automatically tracking everyone and keeping a log of that tracking indefinitely.

The Springdale police department hopes to begin using the system soon to locate misdemeanor suspects.
...AND they're going to use it for every petty crime! Sounds kinda like a police state to me.

Re:And they're going to lose.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20038215)

Sounds kinda like the police doing their jobs to me. Crimes, remember?

Re:And they're going to lose.. (4, Insightful)

anagama (611277) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038371)

There is a difference between catching criminals and creating a database of the travel patterns of presumably innocent people.

My initial reaction was "that sounds neat" but by the time I got through even just the summary, it was obvious that creating a database of everyone's travel patterns is not the right way to run the system. Perhaps 10 years hence, you take a different route to work for whatever reason, later that night you get a knock on your door and then: "Sorry to bother you Mr. Jones but we see you deviated from your usual route. Care to explain?" 10 years after that, you have to file travel plans. "Papers please." Yeah, call me a nutter.

Re:And they're going to lose.. (1)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038365)

So basically, it's going to let police use license plates for what they were actually intended for? Awesome.

Re:And they're going to lose.. (2, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038433)

"They're automatically tracking everyone and keeping a log of that tracking indefinitely."

It does not say whether or not that is the case, the key phrase in your quotes is is "All matches". Are they talking about a match with a wanted plate, or does "match" mean the device was able to read the plate.

It's impossible to distinguish between "OMG 1984!" and "Hey they found my car!" from what is written in TFA.

Re:And they're going to lose.. (1)

thePsychologist (1062886) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038205)

Like every other technology, this kind can be abused. For instance, it could be adapted to record everyone's speed at some instant. Many more speeding ticks = huge increase in profits. You get the idea. With more of these operating (stationary ones), a map of where you are in your car at certain timepoints would be easily available. It's the beginning of a tracking technology, really.

I don't protest the use of it. It's just technology, and it will get used. For beneficial to the public applications like capturing stolen cars and for nefarious purposes, like using machine evidence against humans, because we all know that machines don't lie.

What we need then is a CAPTCHA implementation for licence plates. There are better ways of tracking a stolen vehicle: a *user*-controlled black box or tracker that's in a random location on the car. It wouldn't be too expensive with today's technology, and it's not in the hands of law enforcement.

Re:And they're going to lose.. (1)

letxa2000 (215841) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038367)

Probably the latter. I am concerned about privacy, but I have no concern about this. It's a state-issued license plate that is being monitored in public space. The fact that this could be used to try to track movements of non-criminal persons is a little concern, but even then I have to recognize the fact that my public movements are not particularly private nor should I expect much privacy in my public movements.

This is a good case for "Nothing to see here, move along."

Re:And they're going to lose.. (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 6 years ago | (#20038529)

the ACLU is objecting to?
All matches are stored (with no expiration date given) and can be bought

Re:And they're going to lose.. (4, Insightful)

Space cowboy (13680) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038193)

I'm guessing the bit they're worried about is the indefinite storage of the GPS-location of every licence-plate ever seen by the system. I'm not really sure you can liken that to an officer saying "I think I saw that guy 3 months ago". Effectively, the police are keeping tabs on cars (and by extension, people driving those cars), in an automated and later-searchable manner.

If the idea is "innocent until guilty", then the innocent ought to be given the *rights* of an innocent man, not just have lip-service paid to it. One of those rights is not to be constantly under surveillance by police - in that respect it's very similar to having to produce "papers" at checkpoints, and having the checkpoint-cop record your movement for later use. The 4th amendment may be what they're thinking is being infringed - is it reasonable for the cops to be constantly checking your details, or should there be some level of expected result before they are allowed to do so ?

Simon.

If you don't have anything to hide ... (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 6 years ago | (#20038537)

If you don't have anything to hide then why are you complaining?

And the oft missed counter:
If I'm not suspected of a crime then under what authority are you surveilling me?

And this IS surveillance of citizens WITHOUT a warrant.

Re:And they're going to lose.. (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038323)

Next up? GPS tagging plates.

Until a relatively complex network of cars all using GPS is created, thieves can just rip off GPS tags unlike license plates.

Re:And they're going to lose.. (1)

dltaylor (7510) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038359)

It is VERY different. ALL scanned plates and locations are stored indefinitely.

There is a long history of law enforcement thugs blackmailing individuals whose activities are not illegal, but are negatively viewed by the stupid, malicious, and insane. For example, a record of a politician's car parked at a place that serves alcohol, when the politician's constituency is largely Christo-Nazis, might cost him an election, even if he was not drinking (picking up girls, whatever), simply based on the innuendo, and he can be coerced into "providing a bit of off-the-books help" for even more questionable activities by the cops.

This program provides exactly the type of covert pressure that has helped lead to the thugocracy that the US now "enjoys".

Even if the ACLU wins some sort of order requiring the erasure of the mis-matches, historically, law enforcement considers itself above the law and would obscure, but not delete the records, so the only safe course of action is to prevent the making of the records.

explain to me (1)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038109)

how the ACLU can protest this. At least in my state, driving an automobile is not a RIGHT, but a privilege granted by the department of revenue. With that privilege comes certain restrictions. I don't know how it is any "invasion of privacy" or some other crap. All they are doing is scanning the license to see if there are any stolen vehicles or warrants. Don't give me the "probable cause" argument either...it won't fly. Once again, the ACLU is looking out for the bad guy at the expense of the good guys.

Constitutes UNREASONABLE search (duh!) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20038173)

Constitutes UNREASONABLE search (duh! dumbass!!) Maybe in your NAZI state of Hitlerland this is permitted but this is the UNITED STATES of AMERICA, land of the FREE, not the TERRORISTS STATE you claim.

Re:Constitutes UNREASONABLE search (duh!) (2, Insightful)

SocietyoftheFist (316444) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038211)

So police looking at license plates is unreasonable search? I don't think so, it is a publicly viewable item. They are not taking extraorindary steps to view the license plate. It isn't hidden behind your closed drapes in your house, it is in full view on the road. I see nothing wrong with this as long as only license plates matching stolen vehicles or cars registered to felons with warrants for their arrest are logged and cataloged. I see absolutely no problem with that at all.

Re:Constitutes UNREASONABLE search (duh!) (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20038349)

Apparently you didn't Read The Fucking Article.

*Every* license plate that is scanned gets saved and downloaded onto PCs at Police HQ. Then when a warrant is issued on you later on, they can go back into the database and pull up *everywhere your car has been* before you did anything wrong. The article clearly states this.

This is not just storing the location and plates of criminals, because the cross-checking isn't done in real time, it is done when the data is downloaded later. The article clearly states this.

This is not targeted surveillance of criminals with the 'innocent plates' discarded in real time (which I would agree would be perfectly fine). This is creating a massive database of where every car in that part of Ohio is, with no time limit on when the data expires, and no limit on who can access the data.

Papers, please, comrade citizen!

Yes, but the issue is .... (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#20038533)

the storage of a regular citizen's info. IMHO, The scanning should not be the issue. I have no problem with it. What is needed is that the plates are scaned, checked against the list, and if positive, it is saved. The real problem would be if the police are saving the data for more times than is necessary to check against a list. That should be made illegal. The police should NOT have the ability to track ALL cars.

Re:Constitutes UNREASONABLE search (duh!) (1)

spyderblade (914512) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038377)

I disagree... Where will it stop? If you are publicly viewable in your car, then would you accept a persitant GPS beacon in your plates that uploaded your constant postition to 'the man'? After all anyone with the time could do the same, this would just make things easier. There is a line somewhere...but heck if I know where it is. And I'm sure the really 'bad' people already have ways to get the whole plate issue and all (someone expand on this ?). But hey it may help me find my car if it got stolen some day. All in all I'd be for this, if the (U.S.) govt. had not commited the crazy patroit act abuses and the like - it shows that if they have the tech, they will use and abuse it whenever and wherever they can.

Re:Constitutes UNREASONABLE search (duh!) (2, Informative)

minerat (678240) | more than 6 years ago | (#20038557)

Exactly.

As usual, Bruce Schneier has already been all over it - http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2005/10/auto matic_licen.html [schneier.com]

It boils down to:
1. Automated scanning has great utility to PDs and violates no rights.
2. PDs have no need to retain data on innocent people - do not store non matches and allow the accused to challenge the accuracy of the data.

Re:explain to me (4, Insightful)

Wavicle (181176) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038195)

Because the police have no right to track me when I have committed no crime and am not wanted in connection with a criminal investigation.

Re:explain to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20038257)

So if a cop is behind you they can't "run your plate?" This happens every day and in every municipality in the country, and if your plate comes back stolen, they have probable cause to pull you over.

Re:explain to me (1)

Wavicle (181176) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038315)

Sure they can. But they can't store the GPS coordinates and store it in a database. As long as knowledge of my whereabouts exists until the police officer forgets about me because he has something better to do, I see no issue. The database has a much, MUCH better memory.

Re:explain to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20038511)

I wonder if they considered the size of the database. If anything they will trim old records once they run low on disk space.

Re:explain to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20038285)

If you are of no interest to the police, then your records will just be sitting on a disk somewhere. On the other hand if something happens to you later, this could be useful if police need to see where you where last to try to find you.

I could see where this could be a real pain if someone was falsely accused of a crime and they had to prove that some citing somewhere was an incorrect reading. So I think a reasonable compromise would be to have a law that any data past some age was no longer usable by authorities and had to be deleted. I think there is something similar for video recordings.

Re:explain to me (2, Insightful)

Wavicle (181176) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038339)

If you are of no interest to the police, then your records will just be sitting on a disk somewhere.

Oh, of course! If I have nothing to hide, then I have nothing to worry about, right?

What if I become a person of interest to my spouse during divorce proceedings? Then the database potentially becomes a tool to punish me, not for something illegal I may have done, but for something immoral. Great, so giving right of review of our morality to the police is good why?

Re:explain to me (4, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 6 years ago | (#20038515)

If you are of no interest to the police, then your records will just be sitting on a disk somewhere.
If I am of no interest to the police, they should not be tracking me in the first place. Convenience is not a strong enough reason to abrogate our basic rights.

Re:explain to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20038407)

Bullshit. They can follow your vehicle while running your plates, simply because they need to do this as a part of their job. Is that 'tracking' you?

You will not be able to fight this system as a whole, legally. Fight for data retention laws that will limit the police's ability to retain all car/location logs (not just the 'hits' they are actively seeking) indefinitely.

Re:explain to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20038225)

If the article isn't just poorly worded, the issue is not that they're storing the hits (vehicles that have been flagged as stolen), but that they're also storing the *misses* - ie. even if you've broken no laws and your use of your vehicle is perfectly legitimate, your movements are still being stored indefinitely.

Re:explain to me (5, Insightful)

Le Marteau (206396) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038429)

At least in my state, driving an automobile is not a RIGHT, but a privilege granted by the department of revenue

You actually believe that? That getting from point A to point B in the way society has designed it (i.e. by driving) is a PRIVILEGE? Welcome to the police state, I guess, where doing anything except breathing requires governmental permission.

Not just Ohio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20038111)

Technology seemed similar to a local story I had read recently. It is already in use in Long Island, NY suburbs

http://wcbstv.com/politics/local_story_173070807.h tml [wcbstv.com]

Unreadable combinations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20038115)

I wonder if there are any sequences of letters/numbers that would screw with the image recognition software.

Good thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20038129)

"has located 95 stolen cars and helped locate 111 wanted felons"

I'm all for the privacy thing but this sounds like it's working.

G++

ACLU Wrong Again (4, Insightful)

gbulmash (688770) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038131)

I'm sorry, but this is one of the instances where I disagree with the ACLU.

You're out on the open road. You have no reasonable expectation of privacy. No civil right is being violated, IMO.

Is this another example of us basically having less and less privacy when we leave our homes? Yes? Are our movements being recorded more and more and is it getting annoying? Yes? But claim that the police recording license plates on the open highway is unconstitutional? Can't side with you.

Re:ACLU Wrong Again (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038163)

I agree with you, but it sounds like another instance of "because of the severity of a false positive, it's better to have a lot of false negatives". Somehow it's okay for police to slowly punch in each license plate they have, but not okay to automate it?

Re:ACLU Wrong Again (3, Insightful)

gbulmash (688770) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038239)

Actually, if I owned an office building that abutted a freeway, I could legally set up cameras and record the license plate numbers of every car that passed, and no one could do anything. I could even go and sell that information on the internet or charge people to search the database of license plates recorded. And no one could stop me (muahaha?).

If you're out in a public place, overtly displaying identifiable information, there's no law saying I cannot record that. And let's face it, if you're a law abiding citizen, you're in more danger from the databases being kept by private credit reporting agencies than the ones being kept by law enforcement agencies.

- Greg

Re:ACLU Wrong Again (1)

IWannaBeAnAC (653701) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038249)

I don't think it's that exactly, more like they are storing the information (indefinitely) on EVERYONE, not just people on the 'wanted' list.

Imagine instead if you were required to notify the police every time you went for a drive, including your destination and (perhaps - in next year's upgrade) number and identities of passengers. Would you object to this? If so, why is this over the line when TFA is not? Is it just the convenience of not having to bother notifying the police of your movements, but instead having it all happen automatically via the cameras?

Re:ACLU Wrong Again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20038165)

So you'd be okay with the government installing face recognition cameras and keeping a giant database of the movement of every single citizen when they go outside? Because that's the next step, dude. They're working on it now.

I think you have an expectation that the government isn't watching every single move you make. In a free country, at least, you ought to expect this. So you do have some expectation of privacy.

Re:ACLU Wrong Again (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038179)

You own your face. They own your number plate.

Big fuckin' difference.

Re:ACLU Wrong Again (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038261)

Last time I checked, I had to purchase my license plates.

Re:ACLU Wrong Again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20038355)

In every state I've ever owned a car in, (4, ok not a big sample), you pay a fee to use the license plate, but the state sure owns it. Handing the DMV money and getting a license plate in return does not necessarily equate to a purchase unfortunately.

Re:ACLU Wrong Again (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038361)

I had to pay for my passport too. Still remains the property of the state.

Re:ACLU Wrong Again (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 6 years ago | (#20038539)

I had to purchase my license plates.

Actually, you rented them.

-jcr

Re:ACLU Wrong Again (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038481)

You own your face. They own your number plate.
Big fuckin' difference.
You are going to have explain that "big fuckin' difference" because in this case there isn't one. The argument is that the police are just observing public spaces. It doesn't matter who "owns" the license plate, or "owns" the face, they are both out in public.

Re:ACLU Wrong Again (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038235)

So we should get rid of the police entirely? Because that's the endpoint of the opposite direction.

Slippery slope arguments are thus shitty.

Re:ACLU Wrong Again (1)

Falstius (963333) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038185)

Actually, you should have an expectation of privacy when traveling. We have the right to travel freely within the country and this system could be easily be used to hinder that. That said, there is a fairly simple solution to this which is already built into the legal system. Have the scanners only register license plates that are flagged in the system. Flagging a plate should require a warrant or request from the car's owner. No other information from unflagged plates is saved.

Rather then rushing to the left or right, lets find a way to use new technology to preserve our rights and privacy while improving the efficiency of law enforcement.

Re:ACLU Wrong Again (1)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038217)

Well, the police argument against that is that they *want* to have in the database your known hangouts, so that when you commit a crime, they can come and arrest you immediately, instead of having to hunt for you.

Re:ACLU Wrong Again (1)

Falstius (963333) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038347)

Which is why the ACLU needs to bring this case. Not to banish the system but to make sure it is used in sensible ways. The benefit of a database of where every car has been and when is probably outweighed by the impediment to privacy. The advantage of catching many felons and recovering stolen cars probably outweighs the very minor risk posed by an opt-in or warrant-required system. The political and legal system in the United States pretty much dictates that this question needs to be resolved in the courts, and this is why the ACLU exists.

Re:ACLU Wrong Again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20038283)

Traditionally, the police actually sometimes would do the same work as this system, except manually. They go down a street and check every parked car. Obviously it a lot slower that way when they call in every car individually and only done occasionally since it is time intensive, but in those cases they do keep a log of all the cars they check even if they come up "clear" and once in a blue moon a crime would be solved because they figured out someones car was in the area during that time or contradicted their sworn testimony etc. The article below makes some reference to that.

http://detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/2007 0720/NATION/707200331/1020 [detnews.com]

So expect law enforcement to be pushing to keep all of this data.

Yes and No (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038233)

You are correct, this is merely automating a process that the police do anyhow, and making it more efficient. And I encourage anything that gets police to do their real job rather than hand out speeding tickets all day.

What troubles me is the line about misdemeanors. I'll have to read the article more what that entails, if someone can be bought in for missing a parking ticket or what not.

But more importantly, will it become a camera society like England. Because now, by reading 900 plates, they possibly have a snapshot of where those 900 cars (and presumably their owners) were at any one time. Will they keep that info?

You see, if this technology really catches on, what will happen is that the criminal will switch someone's license plate (most people won't notice if their license plate is different as long as it's the same state and not a vanity one) and then put that onto the target car shortly after stealing it. That means mostly-law-abiding people with a few misdemeanors will have to watch out.

Re:Yes and No (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20038313)

I say let the police do all the automated tracking they want, but encrypt the data and set the system up so that it can only be decrypted by court order. Then the police can use the data when they have reason to, but they can't go on fishing expeditions or use the data for personal vendettas.

Passive vs active privacy (1)

metoc (224422) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038291)

Define your right to privacy.

In this instance the police have a database of where they saw your license plate, forever.

Would it be okay if they chipped your car, and require that it transmit your location. After all you have no expectation to privacy on public roads.

Re:Passive vs active privacy (1)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038447)

Wow, talk about an apples and oranges comparison. With a tracking chip, they can know where your car is all the time, every minute of every day. With this scanner, even assuming they keep a record of every single plate they scan, all they have is a location of where they saw your plate somewhere in the past. And not only that, it's going to be on patrol cars, which means they actually have to be there to get that scan. This in itself makes it much more acceptable than devices like traffic cams that take a picture of your plate when you run a red light.

Re:ACLU Wrong Again (5, Insightful)

Wavicle (181176) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038301)

You're out on the open road. You have no reasonable expectation of privacy. No civil right is being violated, IMO.

The police have no legitimate interest in tracking the driving patterns of people who have not committed a crime and are not under suspicion of having committed a crime.

This is the sort of database that is ripe for use for illegal and unconstitutional purposes:
* Have you been making too many trips to the anti-war rally? Oh, sorry, we're going to have to deny you entrance to this political forum for, uh, 'security' reasons.
* Oh, thank you for your job application... oh dear, it seems you were parked for a while at the planned parenthood, we don't hire your type.

Re:ACLU Wrong Again (3, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038439)

But claim that the police recording license plates on the open highway is unconstitutional? Can't side with you.
I disagree. The fourth amendment states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

I think that a surveillance system which magnifies normal abilities beyond anything humanly achievable must, by definition, raise questions of being an unreasonable search and seizure. If it is not reasonable to expect a person or an affordable group of people to achieve the same results, then it should be considered an unreasonable search.

Re:ACLU Wrong Again (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038471)

But claim that the police recording license plates on the open highway is unconstitutional? Can't side with you.

Show me the part of the constitution that can reasonably allow the government to track citizens for no particular reason.

No, Your Worng Again (1)

enrevanche (953125) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038475)

You absolutely have every right to not have the government tracking your moves. It's one thing to read the plate and compare it against a list of plates and record and report those. But they have no right to record the movements of the average person. Privacy is not just about when no one can see you. Part of privacy is about the reasonable expectation that it is none of the governments business where and when you go.

Re:ACLU Wrong Again (1)

Gregb05 (754217) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038483)

The ACLU's main argument is that it's unnecessary for the police to know where someone was driving their vehicle 3 months ago, and that their job is to investigate a crime when one is committed, not those of otherwise law-abiding citizens. I think this is a reasonable reaction

However, on the Police's side of things, if there's a murder that happened 3 months ago, with three recently found suspects, it would do them a lot of good to figure out which cars were in the area at the time the crime happened, which is also a reasonable desire

Personally, I'm willing to let the police monitor, but there should be fairly strict rules to prevent abuse. The last thing I want to hear about is the cops using this system to track down everyone who does any minor violation. I don't need to be pulled over and reminded to pay a parking ticket by the police. They have better things to do, I'm sure of it.

Ohio may be within its rights with this, but hopefully the lawmakers will exercise some restraint and give some protections to citizens, ideally limiting or eliminating the logging of non-criminal activity without giving a car thief a loophole.

ACLU Against Police (-1, Flamebait)

haakondahl (893488) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038135)

What else did you expect from the American Criminal Leftist Union?


/Hi, I'm new here. Is this the line for flamebait mods?

Re:ACLU Against Police (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20038161)

I hope to see the ACLU defending the Koran-toileter against the hate crime charges laid against him.

Re:ACLU Against Police (0, Flamebait)

Kyrubas (991784) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038191)

I guess this proves that the ACLU is really run by felons.

No tags? (0, Troll)

Speedracer1870 (1041248) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038177)

So they can't track me if I don't have a tag displayed? (still waiting on plate and only have papers) Awesome! I guess I should go commit felonies and have lots of fun now...

The city of Toronto does this too... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20038181)

But in Toronto's case, it's to look for illegally parked vehicles. It's illegal to park overnight without the right permit, so they look for any license plate that isn't in the database for that area.

In many areas of Toronto, it is impossible to park legally on the street after midnight, unless you live in the neighbourhood and have the right permit. So, if you want to have a party and invite your friends, make sure they leave before midnight.

Of course, being Toronto (the inefficient), they are unable to prosecute a parking ticket for any car from outside Ontario. Don't bother paying, there isn't anything that will happen.

Re:The city of Toronto does this too... (1)

Ph33r th3 g(O)at (592622) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038335)

So Canada doesn't have national credit bureaus reporting parking tickets yet? Just wait.

this is long lost (1, Insightful)

Kohath (38547) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038197)

The ACLU is wrong in this case. They're complaining about a technology that is an inevitable result of requiring vehicle licenses and driver's licenses.

If they can make you have a license plate, then they can read it. You people lost this battle a long time ago.

Re:this is long lost (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20038445)

The issue isn't the reading of license plates. If they were to do that, scan for the tags of interest (stolen, wanted, etc.) and then immediateley and automatically discard all of the non-matches, then I would have no problem with it. Assuming all of those steps could be independently verified at any time of course.

The issue is the systematic reading and databasing of *all* license plates with a timestamp and geotag and storing that data indefinitely. It may not be illegal. But it should be - as part of the often claimed, but non-existent right to privacy. The state has no business tracking the whereabouts of law abiding citizens - it's rife for abuse at many levels.

Re:this is long lost (1)

enrevanche (953125) | more than 6 years ago | (#20038499)

This is only "inevitable" if we let it be that way. Just because it can be read does not mean that the government has the right to track every citizen.

Don't see how the ACLU can win this one (1)

Orange Crush (934731) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038201)

Plates are openly displayed in a public place (roadways) and cops can (and have been for some time) easily run plates one at a time. The system just automates the process and unsettlingly keeps indefinite logs that can be mined for nefarious purposes and track our every move, but lately the courts haven't seemed to mind as long as they sell it as protecting families from perverts and drunks. My paranoia doesn't like this at all--they might start doing obnoxious things like pulling me over for no reason other than the fact that I'm not usually in that part of town at that particular time and give me a ticket for a broken tail light, which I tell them is working just fine, then he smashes it and says "no it's not" and starts asking the hooker seated next to me uncomfortable questions.

Re:Don't see how the ACLU can win this one (1)

Speedracer1870 (1041248) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038223)

Yeah, I hate when they start asking my hookers uncomfortable questions. What part of I "found" her first, buddy, don't they understand?

Misleading summery (4, Insightful)

TechwoIf (1004763) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038209)

It does not say if _all_ or just the ones that one on the "hit" list plates are "tagged" and recorded. I would object to this system IF it recored _all_ plates and locations. Recording just the ones that came back with warrants or stolen I have no problem with. And would disagree with the ACLU on this one.

Re:Misleading summery (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20038357)

If you take the time to RTFA, it's quite clear that even "innocent" plates are stored indefinitely:

"Every plate being scanned won't be tossed away but stored for future use. Once a warrant is issued on a plate, officers can pull up the previously scanned data, using coordinates on a map to pinpoint the exact location and time of the car when it was identified."

Problem? (2, Insightful)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038219)

I figure from the article that it looks for certain plates (stolen cars etc) and only the matches are being stored, not every plate scanned. At least, that would make sense, article doesn't really make it clear. If so, how is this different than a cop seeing a "wanted" licence plate on a car and recording the time and place where it was seen? He has to look at a lot of plates but he disregards those that don't match. If every single plate scanned is stored with GPS data then obviously its a different story

You know what? FUCK the ACLU. (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20038281)

Last year my car was stolen. It happened a few days after some scumbag killed a cop and went on the lam, so the police had zero time for me (and I can't really blame them). If we'd had these gizmos then, they might have caught the piece of shit cunt that boosted my wheels.

If I was a cop on the hot auto squad, I'd cross-correlate owners reporting stolen vehicles with ACLU members - and I'd shitcan their cases.

Re:You know what? FUCK the ACLU. (5, Funny)

background image (1001510) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038437)

If I was a cop on the hot auto squad, I'd cross-correlate owners reporting stolen vehicles with ACLU members - and I'd shitcan their cases.

Mod parent up: "+1 unintentionally insightful" for accidentally proving the ACLU's point...

Calling Time On Crime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20038333)

Usual civil rights bullshit. Fact is, criminals use the anonymity of cities and ease of car transport to hide and go about their business. So what if every plate is logged? If it's used to prevent, detect, and enforce law that protects the civil rights of people who've been victims of crime there isn't a problem. Sure, criminals have rights to but not when they prop up their criminal empires. I hope this sends a signal on that.

However (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20038385)

Given that America today tends to criminalize anything and everything, and there are those of us who feel that many arrests are clear violations of privacy, I'm for letting a large percentage of the "criminals" go about their lives without interference from the draconian law-enforcement arm of our near-socialist government. Even many "real" criminals are simply victims of our overbearing, unfair society.

Granted, not every single criminal should go free; there are some true criminals out there that are a danger to others out of true malice, and obviously I have no pity for them.

This being a very unpopular opinion and likely modded down to oblivion, and one I don't want directly associated with any identity I use online, this post will have to be Anonymous.

Information wants to be free, right? (2, Interesting)

feepness (543479) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038395)

And since this has always been publicly available... it is just information demanding to be released from it's bonds.

In a few words.. (1)

the_rajah (749499) | more than 7 years ago | (#20038427)

It's not the use of this system, it's the potential for misuse that is the problem here.

And you know it's gonna happen!

Pathtic (1, Flamebait)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 6 years ago | (#20038485)

The ACLU is pathetic. Aside from their outright hypocrisy on the Second Amendment, I'm in more danger from them and the constitutional rights they profess to protect, than anybody else. All things considered, I prefer less criminals on the streets, and crime being more dangerous to the criminal, than the victim. And how they deserve tax exempt status is beyond me completely.

Solution? (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#20038535)

Take the bus or a train. Look at the bright side. If you get into a wreck, nobody can ever sue you for it. In fact just the opposite, it's like no fault insurance, you get to sue them no matter who caused it, and the medical coverage is somewhat automatic. How can you lose? Think of the money and hassles with the DMV you'll save besides.

Freedom to Travel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20038559)

It is a mistake to call driving a priviledge. Taxpayers bought the roads and should have full, anonymous access on any vehicle worthy of the road under its tires. By removing the "right" to drive, you have gained very little: it is a tad easier to prosecute drunk drivers. BFD. It also means there is generally no burden of proof for any ticket or citation (of which, I have received zero in over 10 years - so this is not bitterness per se). Do you find it odd that they put cameras everywhere - INCLUDING IN THE COP CARS - and then take the cop's "word" for it that you were speeding, failed to stop, swerved, etc.? You can't tint windows to travel anonymously. You must have a plate that can and will be tracked whenever practical. If stolen cars are a concern, there are better ways to pretect your "precious" investment - state sanctioned tracking device. The laws enforced are likely to be the typical morality BS: drug "dealers", smoking in vehicles (soon to be outlawed - btw, I am not a smoker), kids belted in the least accessible/most inconvenient seat.
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