A National License Plate Tracking System Is Already In Place

It operates right under our noses, it's utterly unregulated, it keeps all data recovered indefinetely, and they have no problem sharing collected data with pretty much anyone who asks. A network of repo men constantly scan license plates looking for vehicles that are in default, and save all the data they gather, whether it was a hit or not. That data can then be shared with or sold to law enforcement, insurance companies, private detectives, or anyone else.

I never thought I'd say this, but maybe we need European style data protection laws.


What's the harm? They are taking photos of car plates in public. Right? Don't park out in public if you have an issue.

"Don't park out in public if you have an issue."

That's reasonable....

So is the expectancy of privacy in public...

I’m all for personal privacy and all (I’m from the great state of Texas where we arm our teachers)…. But if a license plate is actually property of the state, then what’s the issue?

I know that for LEO agencies, this is HUGE in combating auto-theft. I know…my car was stolen 4 weeks ago and recovered an hour later with no damage. I was then pulled over on two separate occasions because my plate was still in the database (that’s a fun experience to have…TWICE!).

What can they do with this data that is intrusive?

Well, the biggest issue here is, I think, the fact that it isn't law enforcement doing this. If I'm understanding the article correctly, they'll sell this data to anyone with a credit card- insurance companies, advertisers, whatever. I'm not sure I want my health insurance company knowing how often I visit a fast food place or a liquor store, for example. I don't even want to be tracked by law enforcement if I'm suspected of a crime. Suspicionless tracking by private entities is another story altogether.

I don't even want to be tracked by law enforcement if I'm suspected of a crime

Right there with ya pardner!

In fact I'm such a believer in personal freedom I'll do ya one better: I don't even want to be tracked by law enforcement if I've committed a crime. ;)

Sorry, I meant I don't like it if law enforcement tracks me, but I understand the necessity of it- and presumably, law enforcement has, or should have, restrictions on how they behave, limitations on how long they are allowed to retain the data, and so forth.

But these guys have no such restrictions, and that makes me much more nervous.

It's not just parked cars - license plate tracking can (and does) include moving vehicles as well. You don't have to 'park your car in public' to be scanned. Mike's anecdotal incident(s) above show that.

The problem with license plate tracking and retention is not the technology itself. It is not inherently evil. Used properly, it can be a very effective tool for identifying/recovering stolen vehicles.

The problem lies in defining what is proper. Law enforcement has this technology with no checks and balances on how they can use this scanned plate data. Do you trust law enforcement to 'police' themselves?

Without any guidelines/rules, the data (in aggregate form) can absolutely be used to determine where you've been and what you do.... definitive patterns can certainly be identified with enough data points.

And, because the tracking is location-based, even those who you associate with (think civil protests, political activism) can be determined via geographic grouping of scans.

I am not against license plate scanning. I am against unregulated license plate scanning.

And for those that subscribe to the "I've got nothing to hide, so I don't mind" line of thinking, please note that privacy does not mean secrecy:

Why Privacy Matters - Even If You Have 'Nothing To Hide'

Debunking The 'If You've Got Nothing To Hide' Argument

...license plate tracking can (and does) include moving vehicles as well.

Son of a biscuit! I just thought of somethin'

How do we know them red light cameras aren't also yellow and even green light cameras? And if even they are not now today, they could turn 'em on anytime, right?

If they do I'd sure wish they take into account how many yellows I exercised caution and prudence with before they nail me with a occasional late night infarction!

Marty, your link refutes my stance with a line, and I quote, "Show me yours and I'll show you mine".... seriously? That is supposed to convince someone without reluctance to the data gathering?

And then he goes on to ask if he can photo me naked and share the pics with my neighbors? Like that is anything close to scanning my tags! Wow, what a leap off the deep end.

Time to replace your foil hat...

So you prefer to ignore the real point I was trying to make, and focus instead on one inane line in a supporting document so you can avoid having any shades of gray leaking into your black and white world?

That is your prerogative.

You will continue to subscribe to your warm and fuzzy "If you've done nothing wrong, what is there to worry about?" dogma - and I will continue to assume you are unable to fathom anything that isn't identifiably black or white.

Marty, I read most of your first link which never got to a profound point. It kept talking in circles without getting to a point. There was never a compelling argument made.

And I don't live in a black and white world. We all live in the same shades of gray. I just don't care what people do with info of me while I'm in the public domain. If I am out and about in public, I don't think there is anything you can do about someone taking your picture, let alone a picture of your license plate.

Where I would draw a line is if someone had some device that threatened my privacy at home. Again, not that I have anything to hide there either, but I DO EXPECT privacy at home and I WOULD draw a line in the sand there.

Does Bruce Schneier wear a tin foil hat?

From a 10 year old essay:

"The effects of wholesale surveillance on privacy and civil liberties is profound; but unfortunately, the debate often gets mischaracterized as a question about how much privacy we need to give up in order to be secure. This is wrong. It's obvious that we are all safer when the police can use all techniques at their disposal. What we need are corresponding mechanisms to prevent abuse, and that don't place an unreasonable burden on the innocent."

Which, not coincidentally, was my point - for those that may have missed it.

License Plate tracking worring you...

Upskirt photes on subway is not illigal

There are cameras on every corner of Chicago downtown. License plate recognition cameras around ex-Sears Tower building raise red flag if it sees you drive in circles around the block....as in search for parking. With little effort of updating VMS for face or plate recognition every camera can be used for tracking anything and anyone.

Considering any collected date is priceless to the right buyer, there should be regulations on anything that is done without proper authorization or concent. Ill through in NSA into conversation... no harm done, but is it proper if someone with right finances can buy collected information and have an advantage to someone other who does not have same info.