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ACLU Questions Privacy of License Plate Scanners

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the you-can-trust-us dept.

Transportation 246

coastal984 writes with news that the American Civil Liberties Union is launching a nation-wide effort to find out how police departments are using and retaining information gathered from license plate scanners. They've sent FOIA requests to departments in 38 states, as well as the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Transportation. "It’s not an exaggeration to say that in ten years there will be [automatic license plate readers] just about everywhere, making detailed records of every driver’s every movement, and storing it for who knows how long. In some cases, we know that the worst-case scenario—vast databases with records of movements of massive numbers of people—is already happening. To avoid this fate we need to convince the nation and our lawmakers to take action on this serious threat to our liberty. And to make a convincing case, we need to know a lot more about the problem as it stands. Last year, most people didn’t know why we should call our mobiles 'trackers' instead of phones; there was very little public information on how police departments were using our phones to track our location. The ACLU stepped in and spearheaded a massive public records project, bringing together affiliates from every part of the country, obtaining documents that showed how police nationwide were getting access to our intimate information without judicial oversight."

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Jobs (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40828469)

Looks like Steve Jobs was on to something - except, of course, that it's just as easy to be tracked when you're the only car that doesn't have plates.

Re:Jobs (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40829263)

Yup, like most things Steve did: Good idea, shitty implementation.

Convince Lawmakers to NOT Spy on us? (4, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828487)

To avoid this fate we need to convince the nation and our lawmakers to take action on this serious threat to our liberty.

... you're shitting me, right? Asking politicians to not make laws which restrict the freedoms of their people is like asking a mako shark to please not take a chunk out of my ass - neither is capable of understanding either your request, or reason in general.

Re:Convince Lawmakers to NOT Spy on us? (5, Interesting)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828777)

How else are you going to do this? The law in it's present state allows this sort of monitoring. We after all do vote for these politicians. Might as well ask them to do something for us.

Re:Convince Lawmakers to NOT Spy on us? (4, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829371)

The law in it's present state allows this sort of monitoring.

Actually, it it doesn't; [archives.gov] the only reason the federals get to take carte blanche with regard to ignoring Constitutional limitations is because they hold the states hostage via extortion, i.e. "pass this draconian law / allow us to enforce this unconstitutional law in your state, or we'll pull funding from your critical programs." Personally, I don't imagine any elected President would have the balls to actually pull funding, especially during an election year, but the threat seems to be sufficient to keep the states enslaved, er, in line.

The only out I see at this point is to return power to the states by producing what we need on our own, without federal dollars. Barring that, we're screwed.

We after all do vote for these politicians.

Yup, and it matters not, a single iota. [wikipedia.org] Besides, voting out one lobbyist-controlled, billionaire criminal to replace them with another lobbyist-controlled, billionaire criminal hasn't worked for us yet; what's the point in continuing to flog that poor dead horse?

Re:Convince Lawmakers to NOT Spy on us? (3, Insightful)

uncqual (836337) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829741)

The law in it's present state allows this sort of monitoring.

Actually, it it doesn't

There's nothing in the BoR or constitutional case law that even remotely prevents this sort of monitoring. State issued license plates are (in most cases) required on vehicles driven on public streets. They are, and must, remain visible to all. A police officer, your neighbor, or a random guy on the street can see them. There is no expectation of privacy of your license number. Anyone can take a picture or video of your car, and its license number, on a public street - they can even use a telephoto lens. They can do almost anything they like with the images, including extracting license numbers from the images.

Re:Convince Lawmakers to NOT Spy on us? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40829377)

When windows become corrupt from the constant upgrading of DLLs and install/incomplete unintall of software, accumulation of maliscious trojans, etc..... what do you do?

Clean reinstall... or upgrade to linux.

I suggest the filesystem is 90% fraggmented, there are more trojans and backdoors than we have even found yet, and several of them have no known cleaning method.

Re:Convince Lawmakers to NOT Spy on us? (5, Interesting)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828835)

That's not quite right, and does a disservice to politicians who actually do give a damn about civil liberties, e.g. Ron Paul and Russ Feingold.

For instance, back in 2002 the Bush administration created the Total Information Awareness project, where the NSA was going to basically intercept all Internet traffic in the US and build profiles of everybody based on what they saw. After years of agitating by the usual suspects (including the ACLU and EFF) Congress defunded the agency.

However, what the NSA appears to have done in response to Congress expressly saying that they shouldn't do this: (1) Rename the program. (2) Make the whole thing classified. (3) Move the budget lineitem to a different spending category. (4) Continue as if nothing had happened. So the problem isn't exactly all politicians being power-hungry bastards, it's that power-hungry presidents (and both Bush and Obama are involved in this, it isn't a partisan thing) can work with a power-hungry national security state to do whatever the heck they want without the approval of Congress.

Re:Convince Lawmakers to NOT Spy on us? (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829209)

That's not quite right, and does a disservice to politicians who actually do give a damn about civil liberties, e.g. Ron Paul and Russ Feingold.

For instance, back in 2002 the Bush administration created the Total Information Awareness project, where the NSA was going to basically intercept all Internet traffic in the US and build profiles of everybody based on what they saw. After years of agitating by the usual suspects (including the ACLU and EFF) Congress defunded the agency.

However, what the NSA appears to have done in response to Congress expressly saying that they shouldn't do this: (1) Rename the program. (2) Make the whole thing classified. (3) Move the budget lineitem to a different spending category. (4) Continue as if nothing had happened. So the problem isn't exactly all politicians being power-hungry bastards, it's that power-hungry presidents (and both Bush and Obama are involved in this, it isn't a partisan thing) can work with a power-hungry national security state to do whatever the heck they want without the approval of Congress.

Kind of pointless to bring up names like Paul and Feingold in the same breath that you describe the exact state of helplessness we are currently in, as if either one of them are in a position to actually do anything. Oh wait a second, I almost forgot. Technically, they ARE in a position to actually do something, and yet here we are, still helpless.

Kind of makes you wonder why we're even having this conversation as if monitoring of citizens has really changed at all in the last 50 years by No Such Agency. They've only gotten more efficient about it, that's all.

Re:Convince Lawmakers to NOT Spy on us? (3, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829403)

Technically, they ARE in a position to actually do something, and yet here we are, still helpless.

As a private citizen [wikipedia.org] , how is Russ Feingold in a position to do anything? His defeat in 2010 shows that being the only senator to vote against the PATRIOT Act, and taking other stands in defense of civil liberties, is not particularly popular.

The solution is simple (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40828497)

Just privatize the registration of automobiles and the operation of the license plate tracking cameras. That way, "the free market" will take care of everything. What could possibly go wrong. Oh..., wait.

Re:The solution is simple (3, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828579)

I know you're trying to be facetious, but if you think about it, private registrations would have one major advantage over government-controlled ones, at least in terms of freedom: Being as the different private registrars would be in direct competition with one another, they would have precisely zero incentive to share information between databases.

No data sharing = no nationwide tracking database.

Re:The solution is simple (2)

Stirling Newberry (848268) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828759)

Until someone becomes the google/microsoft/apple/verizon of tracking.

Re:The solution is simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40829433)

Looks like someone's already trying to do this. Have a look at http://www.vigilantvideo.com/Product%20Data%20Sheets/LEARN_PDS.pdf

Re:The solution is simple (3, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828821)

Haha no.
What would happens is agency 1 and 2 and 3 would all sell data to clearinghouses 4,5 and 6. The Government or anyone really would just go to the clearinghouses to get it.

Re:The solution is simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40828863)

What the hell are you talking about? If private companies have the option of selling data they will sell the data. They're not going to leave money on the table. Data aggregators would buy it, combine all the databases and resell it to advertisers.

Re:The solution is simple (1)

Fuzzums (250400) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828969)

Let's extend that to telephone companies. They will not share information between each other. *check*
They're required by law to keep a lot of information about your calls *hmmm*
They're required by law to provide that information to the Stasi. *hmmm*

It's not going to work.

Swap vehicles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40828537)

There's nothing requiring the owner of the car to be the one driving it.
It's possible to rent on RelayRides [relayrides.com] too.
Imagine what that does to the data set.

Re:Swap vehicles (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40828625)

A. The point is that we shouldn't have to jump through hoops to avoid being tracked. Instead, the police et al should have to jump through hoops to track anyone.
B. 99% of the people do not swap cars on a regular basis.

Re:Swap vehicles (5, Informative)

jc42 (318812) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829265)

There's nothing requiring the owner of the car to be the one driving it.

And there was an instructive example of this that got a bit of publicity back in the 1970s, mostly in the scientific press. The reports described a researcher who had for some years had his grant applications turned down without explanation. After a lot of questioning, he finally learned that he was on a US government list of "subversives". Further questioning turned up the explanation: There was a listed "subversive" group that had regular meetings in his city, some distance from where he lived or worked. The security investigators drove down the street during the group's meetings, recording all the auto license numbers, and kept a list of the numbers that belonged to people who didn't live or work nearby. His license number was on the list of regular attendees.

The explanation was that, after his teenage son got his driver's license, he regularly borrowed his dad's car to visit his girl friend, who lived on the same block as the "subversive" meeting. The security folks didn't notice the car was often there on days of non-meetings, only that it was there on many of the meeting days. The car was registered to the kid's father, so they concluded that the car's owner was at the meeting. Why else would he be there on meeting nights?

Once you get on a "subversive" list, of course, it's next to impossible to get off it. This sort of thing is worth remembering when people are talking about such tracking efforts. You and I could easily be on assorted government lists for equally accurate reasons.

These days, the word is "terrorist" rather than "subversive" or "anti-American" or whatever, but the problems are no different. There will be many false positives. Witch hunts are a universal in human society.

Where is the line? (5, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828561)

Anyone can sit down and write down liscense plate numbers. Citizens have done this on their own when they have suspected a house on their block of drug trafficking. Very few would consider this to be an invasion of privacy.

Police officers routinely check license plates against a registry of stolen cars. Few would consider this to be an invasion of privacy.

If police placed a device on my car that told them where I was 24/7, I'd consider that an invasion of privacy.

Having traffic plate scanners all over the place seems like an extension of case #2 where the police are checking license plates on their own... but simply using technology to speed up the process. Where is the line? Is it the automation and efficiency? Would we be upset if automated systems were in place to catch stolen cars or those with outstanding warrants? Or is it storing of the data so that someone else can use the data later for a non-law enforcement type purpose? Would we have a problem with the system if it was incapable of storing the data?

Re:Where is the line? (5, Insightful)

The Raven (30575) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828615)

I would be fine with the trackers if they stored only the most recent location a particular car was detected, and retrieving that location required either the registered owner to report it stolen, or a warrant.

As long as locations can be stored forever, and retrieved at a whim, abuse will be significant.

Re:Where is the line? (2)

kg261 (990379) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828825)

Yes the risk that data stored is wrong (somebody uses phony plates, clerical error, unauthorized access...) seems like a big risk to everybody. Many times have I read stories of police going to the wrong address with things turning out badly. This just seems like another thing to go wrong.

Re:Where is the line? (1)

Aqualung812 (959532) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829593)

For most things, I don't see why location should even be a data point.

I like the idea of police having an OCR to scan all plates near them and flag cars that are stolen or have warrants. However, there is no need to update any file with the location the plate was detected. A simple "Blue Ford at your 5-o'clock position is reported stolen" is enough.

Re:Where is the line? (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828637)

Anyone can sit down and write down liscense plate numbers.

But don't waste my tax money doing it to everyone in an automated way.

Re:Where is the line? (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828697)

If your biggest concern with this is tax dollars, then you've missed the point.

Re:Where is the line? (0)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828733)

It isn't, and my reply didn't indicate that it was. That's only part of the problem. The problem is that it affects everyone.

Re:Where is the line? (2)

quintus_horatius (1119995) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828787)

Maybe cheekyjohnson didn't miss the point, but is providing an alternative effective argument against tracking. It's not just an affront to liberty, it's an unjustified financial burden. Sometimes money talks louder than liberties.

Re:Where is the line? (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828885)

No. It is a non sequitor. The original question is when does tracking become an invasion of privacy. Cheeky came back with "it isn't a useful use of money". He may be right. He may be wrong. But it has nothing to do with the story or my questions.

Re:Where is the line? (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829347)

Maybe cheekyjohnson didn't miss the point, but is providing an alternative effective argument against tracking. It's not just an affront to liberty, it's an unjustified financial burden. Sometimes money talks louder than liberties.

Yeah, I'm sure it'll fly at City Hall - the automated scanners are probably much cheaper to run than doing it by police walking the beat and calling in every plate they see.

The only possible way to justify it is if they constantly check parking meters and issue tickets when they expire - the increase in revenue that way may pay for the increased overhead in personnel.

Or were you expecting that if the police didn't buy the automated scanners, they'd stop doing it?

(Of course, tracking someone with a tracking device is a lot different than scanning license plates - first, scanning plates doesn't identify the person, just who owns the car, and in many places with car rental services, who owns it and who drove it can be completely different (like using an IP address to identify who downloaded infringing content). The other issue is well, they don't snapshot location at all - they sample. It's possible for you to drive around your daily business and they'd never run your plate because they were never around where you parked. In Bittorrent terms, a snapshot would be using the tracker to get a list of IPs distributing infringing content. A sampling would be to join the torrent and see who connects to you to give you or ask for content.)

Re:Where is the line? (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829001)

But don't waste my tax money doing it to everyone in an automated way.

Cameras are cheap, and OCR software is even cheaper. In fact, the low cost is the problem, because it means this may soon be ubiquitous. It also would not be a "waste": an accurate database of the movement of every car would likely be very useful in solving and deterring crime. But as a society, we need to decide if the tradeoff is worth it. We also need to decide where the line is drawn. Should it be legal for me to point a camera out a window of my house and record cars that pass by? What if I then post the data to a website? What if thousands of people do this, and a comprehensive database is generated by crowdsourcing rather than created by the government? Should that be legal? Will the ACLU defend our privacy to drive around anonymously, or our right to take pictures of public spaces?

Re:Where is the line? (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829047)

In fact, the low cost is the problem

What I meant was this: I believe it's both a waste of money and an invasion of privacy to get information about nearly everyone (probably in an automated way) simply because some people are criminals. Of course, even if it didn't waste money, I'd be against it.

Should it be legal for me to point a camera out a window of my house and record cars that pass by?

You doing it isn't like the government doing it. The government is a very powerful group of people with far more power than you.

Re:Where is the line? (2)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829459)

Honestly, it appears we are on the same side on this. My respectful recommendation is to drop the "waste of money" argument. Waste of money is incredibly subjective; you will likely get many law enforcement officials who will very persuasively argue its effectiveness. With access to more data than you or me, we'd lose this argument very quickly. The more effecive argument, IMHO, is that it is wrong to store data about innocent (in the legal sense) people. While there is no expectation of privacy, I certainly have an expectation that I will not be monitored without reasonable suspicion. This is the heart of the matter, and the costs are a far distant consideration.

Re:Where is the line? (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829549)

Waste of money is incredibly subjective

Well, yes. That was my opinion. Besides, you can make more than one argument at a time.

The more effecive argument, IMHO, is that it is wrong to store data about innocent (in the legal sense) people.

That is more important to me. However, the problem is that some average people honestly believe the "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" arguments (or similar ones like "to stop the terrorists" or "for the children"). They'll twist any opposing argument to make themselves look good.

Re:Where is the line? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40828693)

I don't want to be tracked 24/7. Not a single individual wants to be tracked 24/7. Yet, our democratic republican overlords have decided to track us all 24/7.

The line is NO ONE WANTS TO BE TRACKED.

Very simple.

Re:Where is the line? (5, Insightful)

Jaqenn (996058) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828695)

The issue here is that technology has progressed to a point that we're discovering that it's possible to have a situation that's never been a problem before.

If you look at the warrant process, it's attempting to keep the government from messing with you unless they have 'a good reason'. Having a detective follow a suspect around to see what they do has, up until now, been naturally limited by funding and manpower to cases where the police had 'a good reason', and so we've never had to make up external limits on the activity.

As police activity becomes less and less limited by funding and manpower, we have to check if we need to start imposing outside limitations instead.

Re:Where is the line? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40828739)

It's just like GPS trackers.

When the police has a physical person doing it, there's limits (time, manpower, money, etc) to its coverage, but once you take away those limits, well, there's no more reasonable limitation.

Consider the following (numbers made up!):
You can pay a police officer $100K (salary) to write down every license plate that goes through an intersection. He works there five days a week, eight hours a day. Every year you have to pay him his salary (and with that, consider whether it's worthwhile for him to be there).

For that same $100K, you can put 5 scanners in five different intersections. They monitor all plates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The next year, you can use $80K of that same budget to put up 4 more (assuming $20K goes into maintenance). Now you have nine. The next year, thirteen. You don't ever take any down, because they hardly cost you anything. Even after you've caught whomever you were looking for, the stay up.

That's why automation makes things not-ok. There's little, if any, natural limitations on the surveillance.

Re:Where is the line? (2)

cvtan (752695) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828797)

I once had a temp job back in 1970 where I was required to sit at a designated intersection and write down 5 license plate numbers of cars going by every 15 minutes or so. I was never told why I was doing this and after a week I became uneasy and pressed for more information. They refused to explain anything and I quit. Just felt creepy.

Re:Where is the line? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828805)

The difference is it now makes it possible to track your movements at all time.

I would say even in the case of officers recording this data by hand they should have to dispose of it after some amount of time. No good can come of this type of thing, only bad.

Re:Where is the line? (3, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828823)

IMO, it comes down to the storage of the data. Regardless of the actual purpose, the storage of the data means that it can be accessed for purposes which may or may not be in the interest of the general public. More troubling is that storage of any data leaves it vulnerable to loss or theft, where it can be used by people who do not have authorization. If one thing has been proven time and again, it is that stored data has a finite chance of being lost, stolen, or leaked - and no matter what penalties you create, nothing you can do will get that data back.

Correlation of data and movement patterns is also somewhat of a concern, but moreso for people who prefer to be anonymous in their daily lives. It's a relatively small but vocal group - at least vocal here on slashdot. One could suggest that the use of credit cards and frequent shopper cards in return for discounts is a "fair trade" of money for divulging personal information. In the case of police actions, it could be argued that the reduced need for personnel to manually monitor these things reduces overall costs and thus results in an effective reduction in taxes (example: both Maryland and Virginia have operated the past two years with roughly 12% lower tax income - about $2 Billion/yr combined; taxes really do go down sometimes). The question still must be asked - does the benefit of the "service" justify the cost.

If the system were incapable of storing data, I suspect it would not be nearly as much of a concern, but there would still some outcry against the perceived 24/7 monitoring.

Re:Where is the line? (1)

AnotherBlackHat (265897) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828895)

Anyone can sit down and write down liscense plate numbers.

And in theory you could hire an army of people to stand on every corner and record every license plate they see - and that would be an invasion of privacy.

The problem isn't the scanners. That's how they keep tabs on everybody's movements. The problem is that they think it's OK to keep tabs on everybody's movement.

Re:Where is the line? (1)

ukemike (956477) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828957)

Anyone can sit down and write down license plate numbers.
1 Citizens have done this on their own when they have suspected a house on their block of drug trafficking. Very few would consider this to be an invasion of privacy.
2 Police officers routinely check license plates against a registry of stolen cars. Few would consider this to be an invasion of privacy.
3 If police placed a device on my car that told them where I was 24/7, I'd consider that an invasion of privacy.
Having traffic plate scanners all over the place seems like an extension of case #2 where the police are checking license plates on their own... but simply using technology to speed up the process. Where is the line? Is it the automation and efficiency? Would we be upset if automated systems were in place to catch stolen cars or those with outstanding warrants? Or is it storing of the data so that someone else can use the data later for a non-law enforcement type purpose? Would we have a problem with the system if it was incapable of storing the data?

Actually it seems to me that having enough scanners around would make your case 2 approach case 3. They know all your movements (everyone's) and make a database of everyone's movements. If the end result is the same, only the method different why would you consider one to be a violation of your privacy and the other not?

Re:Where is the line? (1)

rabbit994 (686936) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829097)

I think it's automation and efficiency. Just like LE used to follow people around all the time watching where they went and such. Thing about that though is it's time consuming and if you were watching for it, you could start to detect it. Now they can attach GPS to your car and now it will just call in where it is at all times. It makes decision "Should we pay someone to following around potential bad guy X?" to extremely easy. "X might be bad guy but hell, GPS is only 2000 dollars and 50 bucks a month we pay to Verizon for cellular data plan, go ahead and put it on his car. We will figure out soon enough"

Same thing with License plate readers. While someone could sit somewhere and write them all down, that person could have messed up, it's expensive, they may not get them all. Now, point cameras everywhere, much cheaper, much more efficient and database storage is cheap, keep all the data forever.

Re:Where is the line? (1)

matang (731781) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829605)

i've always believed that the line is crossed somewhere in the automation of things we are allowed to do individually. you can go to your local register of deeds and get someone's marriage certificate or information on their home (property location, value, previous owners, etc). i don't have an issue with that until it's automated, where you go to a web site and can check on literally anyone you want in half a second. in the former there is a commitment of time and effort involved that would a) dissuade most individuals from abusing the system and b) make the entire process slow enough that any abuse would be limited. in the latter you can literally get information on hundreds of people per hour. i feel it's the same with these automatic tracking devices. having a cop enter a license plate manually when there is probable cause is a LOT different than having a machine attached to his car do it automatically and store the information. just my two cents.

Re:Where is the line? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40829627)

Taken to the extreme, with scanners almost everywhere, it *is* equivalent to them placing a device on your car.

Fight the terrorists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40828577)

We all know some nonsense excuse will come about taking away every remaining civil liberty we have in the name of fighting boogeyman terrorists.

still have privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40828609)

walk, ride a bike, take the bus, hire a cab, limo, rickshaw, or horse drawn carriage, etc...

"Simple" Solution (1)

kalalau_kane (1621021) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828617)

Just make the data publicly accessible. If the overlords want to create a database of what peons do, like, say, go, wear, .... Just put it online in a publicly accessible database and justify keeping the data to the Legislative and Judicial branches. Further -- no excepting anyone from being included in the database or from accessing it. Public pressure will serve to keep things honest.

Re:"Simple" Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40828721)

Just make the data publicly accessible.

Honestly, the only people who would win are the advertisers that get information for free.

Dont drive (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40828619)

There is no where on the planet where you have to have a car to survive. If you're so worried, stop driving.

Cars are convenient, but considering they are less than 150 years old, anyone who wants to argue that they are required in response to this post is pretty much an ignorant fuck, just getting that out of the way now so I don't have to bother coming back to point out the stupidity thats about to respond to this post.

--BitZtream

It isn't just cars (1)

Ichijo (607641) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828653)

I heard the FAA has been tracking airplanes for years!

Use a Frame (5, Interesting)

hardburlyboogerman (161244) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828661)

My van has a custom built (By me) License plate frame that unless you are DIRECTLY dead on line of sight,all you see is a 1 finger salute.The Van give the bird to any cameras or scanners out there.

Re:Use a Frame (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828731)

My van has a custom built (By me) License plate frame that unless you are DIRECTLY dead on line of sight,all you see is a 1 finger salute.

Lenticular, I assume?

Re:Use a Frame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40828785)

Is this legal where you live?

Re:Use a Frame (1)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828833)

Some states consider it obscuring the license plate, and fine you for it (you are breaking the purpose of the license plate). Watch out.

Re:Use a Frame (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828873)

In what state is that legal?

Re:Use a Frame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40828977)

It isn't, but he hasn't been arrested yet because they can't get his license plate number.

Re:Use a Frame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40829553)

I know New Jersey it is. Even having a license plate holder that's border is thick enough to partially cover the words "New Jersey" or "Garden State" along the top and bottom of the plate is grounds for a police officer to pull you over. It should be noted, though, that most license plate holders installed by dealerships violate this rule, but rarely are people pulled over, let alone ticketed, for the offense. When it does come in to play is when an officer needs an excuse to pull you over and stick their nose through the window. Basically it's a way to pretend that people are not being profiled. Drive a car that looks "suspicious" (as in, that's what a criminal or drug user would drive). Even if you are driving the speed limit and obeying all other traffic laws, the license plate holder is one of many excuses police have to pull you over. Usually, they just make something up like "you weren't wearing your seat belt" or some other BS, though.

Re:Use a Frame (1)

cvtan (752695) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828897)

If your plate frame involves putting something in front of the plate (even clear plastic), it would be illegal in NY. Not sure how many other states do this.

Re:Use a Frame (1)

hardburlyboogerman (161244) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829179)

Think Venetian Blinds & how they work.Nothing in Ky law forbidding it

Re:Use a Frame (4, Informative)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829401)

Dont read your own laws then?

186.170 Display of registration plates, insignia-
No rim, frame, or other covering around the plate shall in any way obscure
or cover any lettering or decal on the plate

186.170 00449 RIM OR FRAME OBSCURING LETTERING OR DECAL ON PLATE VIOLATION [kentuckystatepolice.org]

Re:Use a Frame (1)

Whorhay (1319089) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829651)

That appears to just be the titles of specific sections not the actual criminal code its self. It is entirely possible that in the code it states the angles and directions from which the plate must be visible, or that the code does not specify and so leave it open to interpretation.

Bike (1)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828689)

All the more reason to ride a bike.

License plate scanners have privacy? (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828691)

I had not realized that license plate scanners had privacy. The summary does not seem to address the issue of whether the ACLU thinks that license place scanners should have privacy and don't or if they should not have privacy and do.
Reading the summary it seems that the ACLU is not questioning the privacy of license plate scanners, but is instead questioning the impact of license plate scanners on privacy. That is a very different question.

Not the scanners but how they use them. (5, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828699)

I had a friend who got a $300 fine for driving with expired registration in the mail, because a police car flagged his car (Flagged when he was driving to the DMV to renew it), then months later they mailed him the fine, because the city needed some extra revenue. The same thing with traffic camera. I am OK with them monitoring the road, but if you are going to fine someone it should be done in real time. A parking ticket, when you get back to your car, you know you made a mistake. You run a red light, then you see Blue (or Red in NY) blinking behind you, you know what you did. These Delayed fines, are not helpful in solving bad behaviors, because too much time has gone by. Chances are the person doesn't even remember the act.
We have all made mistakes, and not get caught.
I have Ran Red Lights, not out of malice or being in a rush, but my mind was focusing on the car in front of me, or the guy tailgating me from behind, or just a brain fart of thinking Red is Go and Green is stop. (Red and Green are opposite colors and if you see the lights out of your direct vision, they can seem the same color.)

I have missed the Do not turn on Red Signs (as they place them where you can't read the sign if you are stopped at a red light.)

It is part of a bigger problem of Government thinking it is OK, to make revenue off of Fines, Then working hard to try to catch people breaking them.

Lets put the Traffic Lights upside down, so we can flag all the color blind people (or sideways like in Rochester, NY). Or lets make all the stop signs Green Circles. The heck with safety, we just need to bring in revenue.

Re:Not the scanners but how they use them. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40828869)

If it was expired while he was driving to the DMV, it don't matter that he was en route tot he DMV, it was expired and the fine was legitimate.

None of your other points are very good either...

Re:Not the scanners but how they use them. (2)

Whorhay (1319089) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829571)

That depends on the jurisdiction and such. Where I live a recently expired registration is usually a fixit ticket where you just need to get the situation remedied and the ticket will be waived, usually you still have to pay the $50 court fees though.

As for the moving violations he has a very good point. In most cases an automated stop light or speeding fine doesn't stop the dangerous behavior that is happening. And stopping the dangerous behavior is the whole point of a traffic stop. And for legal reasons it is purely a fine with no points associated, so that you don't risk losing your license. This makes these offenses purely revenue generation, and turns breaking these laws into more of a financial question. If you had the money there would be no reason not to just run red lights when you thought it was safe or speed excessively, as you wouldn't be risking your license or even the annoyance of a traffic stop. Steve Jobs would have loved this one given his penchant for driving a recently leased vehicle to avoid needing a licenseplate and then parking in handicap spaces.

Now suppose in ten years or so when these automated methods are more widespread for traffic enforcement, will police staffing be cut back? I'm betting it will, because currently revenue from traffic violations is the main driving force for cities to keep police officers on staff. And how about car theft, if I were to steal a car what incentive would there be for me to obey traffic laws at all if the risk of being stopped by an officer is non existant. I might get caught more quickly if the owner realizes the car has been stolen and reports it quickly enough, but until then I can truly joy ride without the risk of a traffic stop and ensuring arrest.

Then we have cases like happened up North last winter I believe. Some cities weren't able to keep up with clearing snow from the streets so it was just piled to the sides completely blocking regular right hand turn lanes. The drivers easily adapted and turned right from the lane that was normally a straight only. Any driver that turned right on red as was legal, at a light monitored by an automated red light camera got a nice fat fine in the mail. Any police officer on the scene would have realized what was happening and not bothered to issue any citations. The cities solution though was for everyone that thought their ticket was improper to contest it, on their own dime and time.

So far as the plate scanners go I'm alright with them so long as they are completely incapable or retaining data that is not directly tied to some infraction, and are being actively used by a police officer. That way when the scanner spits out a violation it can actually be acted on immediately. That way your stolen car might actually be reclaimed before it makes it to the chop shop.

Re:Not the scanners but how they use them. (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829193)

You make a point that some people seem to have missed, so I will restate it. The official purpose of fines for traffic violations (and violations of other laws) is to discourage this behavior. If the gap between the behavior that the fine is intended to discourage and the fine being levied is too large, it will have no impact on the behavior because the person will not connect the punishment with the behavior.

Re:Not the scanners but how they use them. (1)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829453)

Sounds like you shouldn't be driving then.

(Red and Green are opposite colors and if you see the lights out of your direct vision, they can seem the same color.)

Why would it be out of your direct vision? Lights are at such a small minute of arc out of your normal sight line, if you can't tell what color it is, you cannot operate a vehicle safely.

There is no way to stop this... (2)

dryriver (1010635) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828719)

These people won't rest until every phone can be tapped, every email recorded in a forever-database, every face recognized from 500 feet away by nextgen CCTV cameras, every car's whereabouts tracked via RFID or license plate readers... You get the idea. ----- For the people in power, all this surveillance and more is how the future "should look like". ------ They don't like the idea of peopel having some privacy. They don't like the idea of people being free, or having some secrets. That's not how the future THEY WANT looks like. ------ 10 - 20 years from, every little bit of liberty and privacy we take for granted may be gone, forever. Every step you take will be recorded. Every statement you utter also. Every phone conversation you have with someone. Every place you browse on the web. Every channel you watch on your TV. ------ These people cannot live with the idea of a FREE AND FAIR FUTURE for mankind. They are psychologically programmed to feel a need to watch everyone, all the time, and record everything for future evaluation. ------ Goodbye, old & free world. It was nice to experience you, even if it didn't last very long... --------

Re:There is no way to stop this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40829011)

There is no way to stop this...

There is a way. Stop voting these assholes into office.

Re:There is no way to stop this... (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829417)

Stop voting these assholes into office.

I tried that. It didn't work.

Re:There is no way to stop this... (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829531)

There is no way to stop this...

There is a way. Stop voting these assholes into office.

Considering that the system is gamed so that "these assholes" are the only ones eligible to run for higher office, I would be remiss if I didn't ask precisely what you suggest as the alternative option...

Re:There is no way to stop this... (1)

dyingtolive (1393037) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829565)

Tell me who to vote for then.

Re:There is no way to stop this... (1)

hierofalcon (1233282) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829577)

The problem is not getting rid of the current group of politicians.

The problem is finding a different set of politicians who value the constitution and are willing to go against the entrenched bureaucracy to write laws that tear down the apparatus that has been built up and follow through to make sure that it stays torn down. This is the challenge. Neither of the major parties have a sufficient number of these individuals in them although there are a few. Nobody wants to take a chance on a third party such as the Constitution Party, which might actually accomplish this because "they can't win".

If you really find a solution, please let everyone know.

Re:There is no way to stop this... (2)

kobaz (107760) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829685)

Wait... so... there are non-assholes running for government?

Privacy is impossible... (3, Insightful)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828745)

... in the modern era. What about GEO IP location, or identifying people by their IP address + browsing history (everytime you visit a website, multiple websites are tracking you).

Buzzwords like: Ad Serving, Traffic Analytics, Content Customization, are just euphamisms for identifying end users, their interests, spending habits, etc.

The below company has blizzard entertainment and others as a clients, you can bet they are using it to identify where their users live, what their income levels are, etc. It's trivial to identify people once you have enough information. Especially isnce IP addresses often give away a persons physical location.

http://www.maxmind.com/app/ip-location [maxmind.com]

No one has the resources to deal with it, it's like piracy you can't stop it even if you'd want to and big business has an interest in furthering its criminality and criminalizing anything that gets in its way.

Re:Privacy is impossible... (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829229)

IP addresses do not usually give away direct locations; they most often give away the location of the ISP. Maybe if you're working at a place that has their own static IP or block, but then you're potentially one of hundreds or thousands.

I'm much less concerned with IP geolocation than automated tracking of license plates for this reason. A more comparable internet analogy (since we're already talking about cars) would be if police installed tracking software on the major routers of the internet backbone that could identify what people did at all times.

It's not the fact that it can be done; it's the fact that it's done indiscriminately, without probable cause for such tracking, under the assumption that for a subset of the people tracked, they will find such probable cause later.

Re:Privacy is impossible... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40829333)

you have obviously never heard of TOR, Chaumian mixes, Dining Cryptographers, etc..

This car story needs a internet analogy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40828751)

A license plate number only tells who the car is registered to and not the person who is driving it, like an I.P. address may tell who paid for the internet access but not who is using that connection at any moment in time.
I am sorry officer it was my dog driving the car.

Doomed (4, Insightful)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828841)

If we look at things optimistically, you may successfully persuade police departments and other government agencies to ignore this publicly visible data.

But regardless of whether you succeed at that or not, if you concentrate on the scanning tech rather than the visible plate, then you have a 0% chance of addressing the privacy concerns. Even if you stop government from looking at the plates, what about the other 99% of the population who is able to see the plates?

This reminds me of situations where people send plaintext emails, find out the one of the dozens or hundreds of parties who is able to read those emails (government) happens to actually be doing it, and then say that making government stop doing that, will solve the problem. *facepalm*

Either become ok with your license plate being a cookie, or lobby to end license plates (and that, I admit, is a very hard position to take). There is no middle solution, and approaches that involve putting scanning genies back into bottles, are stupid on the face of it and 100% guaranteed to not work -- and even that is assuming you can get government to do what you want.

Free the data (1)

Patrick May (305709) | more than 2 years ago | (#40828943)

If the government is using our money to build these systems, they should make the data available publicly, in real time. While I'd much rather they didn't collect it at all, knowing where the police cruisers are at all times would be some small compensation.

Re:Free the data (1)

Patrick May (305709) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829003)

Rudely replying to my own post.

We don't even need to rely on the government database. Web cams in private cars feeding data to REST service at an aggregating website, maybe with a Raspberry Pi onboard to do some preprocessing....

Excuse me, I have some hacking to do.

How to defeat these scanners? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40828971)

Why not also work on developing countermeasures? Would some high-power IR LEDs pointed at your license plate along with the normal plate illumination lights have any effect? Polarizing filters?

Well, They are probably an invasion of privacy... (2)

BMOC (2478408) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829071)

But they have likely saved me a few traffic stops, to say the least. My Truck hasn't had up-to-date registration stickers on the plates in nearly a year, and I haven't been pulled over once. I paid registration, but CA DMV simply sent the stickers to the wrong address and I decided it wasn't worth my time to correct their mistake. Mind you, I've had a lot of cops suddenly pull up behind me, only to lose interest and change lanes/move away about 30-60 seconds later. So.... yeah, an invasion of privacy is likely, but it does improve police work.

Yup, open and shut case for the SOYTUS, maybe (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829079)

If Scalia can get past the four-letter-words while convincing his fellow Justices that this is clearly unConstitutional.

But our goverment is so willing to trample the Constitution just because they have the technology to do so. This is a fight worth fighting. And others as well.

China compiles massive dossier on every citizen (5, Insightful)

C0L0PH0N (613595) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829167)

The real threat, that the ACLU knows very clearly, is that the clearest path to government oppression of its citizens is to follow the path of China and other totalitarian regimes, and put together a massive dossier on every citizen. Then, anytime the government wants to crack down on a citizen, it has all the information it needs to put the citizen away. As any police officer will tell you, with over 5,000 federal laws, and countless local state and municipal laws, every citizen breaks laws without even knowing it, and if they follow you in a cruiser, then eventually can legally pull you over. What protects us is that most miniscule violations are not on the books. But if the government can collect 100% of all the information technology increasingly permits, they will begin to get 100% information. This will not harm you until the government decides to focus its laser power on YOU. There is little in this world as powerful as government, which can bring down the powerful, the wealthy, even the lawmakers. The ACLU has this one right - our government needs to be limited in the information it gathers on us.

Re:China compiles massive dossier on every citizen (2)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829487)

Hey, we do too! [wired.com]

Not the right approach (3, Insightful)

wealthychef (584778) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829169)

Rather than focus on preventing government from spying on us and collecting information on us, which is futile, we need to focus on collecting information about our government and the actions of elected officials and making it transparent and easy to access for all citizens. The problem is that there is an inequality in the available information and that leads to too much government power. I seriously think our congressmen should be filmed 24/7 and all their motions made public, perhaps 1 year later to avoid the threat of assassination.

Privacy is dead (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829197)

I'm getting a little tired of seeing posts on retained information and person information and scanning etc.... Here's the deal, if you don't want your personal information stored by others get rid of the internet, your house, your car, all forms of non paper money, never show up anywhere there is a camera, never go to church ( God is storing your person data!!!!! ) and then crawl into a hole 50 Km under ground and stay there, and you better be naked because the government will use the tag on your jeans to find you.

The sooner people wake up and figure out that you don't have privacy anymore the better, the best question to ask in this case is what are you doing that you require such privacy?

If you do any activity which required your name be put to paper then your trackable okay, simple, easy and clear now grow up.

Re:Privacy is dead (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829277)

the best question to ask in this case is what are you doing that you require such privacy?

There are numerous personal reasons someone could want privacy. Let's just allow the government to install surveillance equipment in every room of every house. We don't have privacy, after all! So instead of fighting back, let's just give up and make it worse! After all, if you have nothing to hide, what do you have to fear?

Re:Privacy is dead (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829761)

After all, if you have nothing to hide, what do you have to fear?

.....Thats right, I have nothing to hide, which is my point.

Re:Privacy is dead (1)

dyingtolive (1393037) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829765)

Okay, here's the deal, and I assume you SHOULD 'get it' by now, so you're probably just trolling, but I will indulge you.

There's new laws being passed, constantly. Seldom to old laws actually get repealed. Following this out to its logical end, more things become illegal, suppressed, or controlled than they were previously. Suppose that something that you did a week ago suddenly became illegal. Take smoking cigarettes, for example. Say you're a good little obedient Citizen, and you've stopped smoking. Oho, but the Government knows you WERE smoking previously. They also know it's hard to kick the habit. Now they're investigating you, assuming that you've been finding some way to circumvent the constant monitoring, because after all, there'll always be criminals, right?

Is it RIGHT for the goverment to be able to do that? I mean, I know you like your Facebook and enjoy Amazon sifting through your search results and now that's got you thinking that it's cool the government does it, but it's really not. I can not use Facebook and Amazon. I can't not use the government.

Have you ever watched Parking Wars? (1)

BetaDays (2355424) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829235)

For those in the US we have a show on a cable channels A&E that has a show called Parking Wars. http://www.aetv.com/parking-wars/ [aetv.com]

They go up and down streets looking for people who are not following the law on how and where to park and also run checks on all the cars to see if any outstanding parking violation are on them. And how do they get the people to pay up? They put what is called a "Boot" on the car that makes it so they can not move the car from the spot.

Re:Have you ever watched Parking Wars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40829411)

just call Angle Grinder Man!

why do we have visible license plates (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40829359)

why not an RFID signal that the police can activate when they have a good reason to suspect something?

Liberty?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40829389)

(HaHa)^99

Ah haha *wipes tears*

Really?! what's left?

Justice Alito in recent GPS Tracking Case (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40829395)

JUSTICE ALITO: Well, that seems to get to me to get to what's really
involved here, the issue of whether there is a technical trespass or
not is potentially a ground for deciding this particular case, but it
seems to me the heart of the problem that's presented by this case and
will be presented by other cases involving new technology is that in
the pre-computer, pre-Internet age much of the privacy -- I would say
most of the privacy -- that people enjoyed was not the result of legal
protections or constitutional protections; it was the result simply of
the difficulty of traveling around and gathering up information. But
with computers, it's now so simple to amass an enormous amount of
information about people that consists of things that could have been
observed on the streets, information that was made available to the
public. If this case is decided on the ground that there was a
technical trespass, I don't have much doubt that in the near future it
will be probable -- I think it's possible now in many instances -- for
law enforcement to monitor people's movements on -- on public streets
without committing a technical trespass.
So how do we deal with this? Do we just say, well, nothing is changed,
so that all the information that people expose to the public -- is, is
fair game? There is no -- there is no search or seizure when that is
-- when that is obtained, because there isn't a reasonable expectation
of privacy? But isn't there a real change in -- in this regard?

I've said it before... (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829489)

... and I'll say it again.

People do *NOT* have any natural right to anonymity when they are in any sort of public place. I do not say this because I think privacy or anonymity is unimportant, but it's the furthest thing from any sort of natural right when a person makes a deliberate choice to be in a place where there are other people.

The *ONLY* assurance that one might have of not being identified whenever they are in public is whatever sense of assurance that they possess that people who might have the ability to do so will simply be too indifferent about them to try.

Of course, one has no real control over what other people think about them, so this sense of assurance, while it may be adequate for some people, is ultimately ephemeral.

I'd thought auto insurance use them first (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 2 years ago | (#40829695)

I'd think some enterprising vendor would collect license plat location data and sell it to insurance companies. They have an insatiable appetite for rate-rising data.
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