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Police Using License-Plate Scanners; Big Brother Is Watching

Flickr: Dave Dugdale

The American Civil Liberties Union released a report on Wednesday saying that police forces around the country are using license-plate scanning devices to help track and solve crimes; but in the process are also storing information of millions of innocent drivers.

The collected data is mostly unrelated to suspected crimes or activities and ACLU says the process is “ripe for misuse and abuse.” The group also says there is very little supervision over the collected information. Most motorist are unaware their information was collected at all, ever.

The ACLU report states “in effect, government location tracking systems recording the movements of many millions of innocent Americans in huge databases.”

Catherine Crump, ACLU staff attorney, told USA Today:

This is a way to track all Americans all the time, regardless of whether they’re accused of any wrongdoing. (This is) the most widespread location tracking technology you’ve probably never heard of.

Where are these plate scanners at? Most are mounted on police cars themselves; on the trunk or hood. They get even trickier though as some have been known to be mounted on road signs, toll gates, and bridges.

The data from the plates collected can be submitted to a secondary police inquiry, where further information can be viewed in the state vehicle registry.

Police have responded to report saying the plate scanners have helped in stolen car crimes, as well as homicides. But even the International Association of Chiefs of Police have come out saying this system could very well lead to invasion of privacy.

The ACLU, in their report, has several recommendations for how the data should be used by police

  • Police must have reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred before examining the data.
  • Unless there are legitimate reasons to retain records, they should be deleted within days or weeks at most.
  • People should be able to find out if their cars’ location history is in a law enforcement database.

The theory that “Big Brother” is watching has gained more momentum with this story.

ACLU

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