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National Car Tracking System Proposed For US 563

Posted by timothy
from the arrogance-of-power dept.
bl968 writes "The Newspaper is reporting that the leading private traffic enforcement camera vendors are seeking to establish a national vehicle tracking system in the United States using existing red-light and speed enforcement cameras. The system would utilize Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) to track vehicles passing surveillance cameras operated by these companies. If there are cameras positioned correctly the company will enable images and video to be taken of the driver and passengers. The nice thing in their view is that absolutely no warrants are needed. To gain public acceptance, the surveillance program is being initially sold as an aid for police looking to solve Amber Alert cases and locate stolen cars."
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National Car Tracking System Proposed For US

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  • Inductive sensors (Score:5, Interesting)

    by seanadams.com (463190) * on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @11:57AM (#25041011) Homepage

    Here's some food for thought:

    The coils of wire embedded in the pavement, which are used to monitor freeway traffic and to control traffic lights, could detect the type of car that is passing over by the waveform it produces at the sensor. With some clever signal processing you could distinguish roughly the shape and size of the vehicle.

    These sensors are everywhere - you might pass a hundred of them in a day. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to then see that if you could gather data from enough of these sensors, you could track a particular vehicle over the course of many miles. Combine this data with the camera images and you can also identify that vehicle.

    • by riker1384 (735780) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:03PM (#25041109)

      How would it tell my Civic from the millions of other Civics?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Lovedumplingx (245300)

        How would it tell my Civic from the millions of other Civics?

        The parent said

        Combine this data with the camera images and you can also identify that vehicle.

        Bit of a stretch I think but maybe not far off.

      • Soon after the development of effective fly-by tags, some "crises" will coincidentally lead to a call for action from our fearless leaders.
        I know this is my humor-impaired, off-topic inner redundant troll speaking, but I must re-iterate:
        Won't someone please think of the children?

      • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) * on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:20PM (#25041413) Homepage Journal

        This is my Civic.

        There are many like it, but this one is MINE.

      • by Lobster Quadrille (965591) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:30PM (#25041629)

        I guess they could require you to attach some kind of placard to the back of your car with a unique combination of numbers and letters on it....

        I dunno though, the logistics of doing that kind of thing on a large scale are pretty limiting.

      • heuristics (Score:5, Insightful)

        by seanadams.com (463190) * on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:38PM (#25041803) Homepage

        How would it tell my Civic from the millions of other Civics?

        Obviously the system would have a degree of certainty that is dependent on the number of cars on the road, the uniqueness of the car in question, the number of sensors, etc.

        The key premise is that cars don't just randomly appear and disappear from the road. They pass over sensors in a predictable sequence. You would use all kinds of heuristics. For example, you might predict when a given car should pass the next sensor, and then if you see that same signature at around the expected time, you can be pretty sure it was the same car. Correlate that with additional data about the cars nearby it and you can increase the degree of certainty. It's not simple, but it's feasible.

        • Re:heuristics (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Mysticalfruit (533341) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:58PM (#25042203) Journal
          So, how long before someone puts an electromagnet on the bottom of their car connected to a circuit that generates a random power output? Better yet, they hide the whole thing inside their muffler or gas tank so the whole thing would be hidden.

          If this system is matching on some magnetic profile, you could end up making your magnetic signature look just like some other cars signature.

          Just imagine if the system thinks car X goes by sensor A at 9:00 and then sensor B at 9:01 and those sensors are 10 miles apart. Suddenly car X owner gets a speeding ticket in the mail.

          Or what if someone driving along has a device under their car that consists of a grinding wheel that is feed by a magazine of rare earth magnets. I would imagine coating the ground with very magnetic powder would probably screw the system up, not to mention what it would do to the cars behind it as a fine dusting of magnetic powder goes into their engine.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Apparently you aren't aware that the FBI mandated legislation such that all tires manufactured in the US have RFID chips in them.

        This was done some time ago, and by now, most cars have this.

        The OP's premise was quite correct, in that this sensing could be done now, and distinguish your car from other similar models. It's really only a matter of time before this happens.

    • Re:Inductive sensors (Score:4, Informative)

      by Ironsides (739422) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:16PM (#25041315) Homepage Journal

      With some clever signal processing you could distinguish roughly the shape and size of the vehicle.

      It doesn't take a lot of imagination to then see that if you could gather data from enough of these sensors, you could track a particular vehicle over the course of many miles.

      That is a big if. Those sensors are not very precise and I'm not sure it could do much between differentiation of vehicles. I have been stopped at a light and had at least three near identical cars of very close length and weight right around me. I don't believe that the sensors would be able to differentiate between models that are even four years apart from each other.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Comboman (895500)

        Those sensors are not very precise and I'm not sure it could do much between differentiation of vehicles.

        Anyone who has ever sat at a traffic light for several minutes in a motorcycle waiting for the light to change when there's no traffic in the other direction will attest to the fact that saying those sensors are "not very precise" is an understatement. I doubt if they could detect the difference between Hummer and and Mini.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      With some clever signal processing you could distinguish roughly the shape and size of the vehicle.

      It would have to be some very, very clever signal processing and you would have to be content with some very, very rough estimates of anything you were looking for.

      It's easier to just put RFID chips in license plates and install sensors on the side of the road. They will do this eventually.

      • by pwizard2 (920421) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:32PM (#25041653)

        It's easier to just put RFID chips in license plates and install sensors on the side of the road. They will do this eventually.

        That will eventually give rise to tinfoil body kits.

      • Re:Inductive sensors (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Obfuscant (592200) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:33PM (#25041701)
        It's easier to just put RFID chips in license plates...

        No, it's easier to just read the RFID tags in the tires.

        What is this "The Newspaper" credit? Did something happen after I went to bed last night that left us with only one?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by profplump (309017)

        Or if you're installing sensors, just have the read the existing license plate. Remember that plate with 3" tall, high-contrast, OCR-friendly lettering that you're required to install on your car? Is there some reason they couldn't just use that?

        I'm as opposed to tracking as the next guy, probably more so, but I can't believe how silly people get about RFID and other such short-range ID technologies on a device that is already registered with the state and required to carry large identification signage.

    • Re:Inductive sensors (Score:5, Informative)

      by jschimpf (628722) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:34PM (#25041723)
      Been there done that. Worked with a company that did traffic sensors and could see the waveforms from vehicles. We could and did identify makes and models of cars. BUT take that same car and drive north or south over rough road for a while and you get a different waveform ! (Hint the car is now magnetized differently). Anyway yes you could identify specific cars of the set the company owned. But this would not extrapolate to those same models in the wild driven differently or with a different magnetic history. As just driving the car will change the waveform.
    • Re:Inductive sensors (Score:4, Informative)

      by onkelonkel (560274) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:47PM (#25041959)
      Nope. The sensors detect the change in inductance of the loop and do a "presence / no presence" decision. Google "Reno A&E" for all the details on loop detectors. The "signal" from a loop will vary depending on loop size, shape (round, rectangle, diamond, quadrupole (figure 8)), length of the lead-in wires, depth of the loop in the pavement, height of the vehicle above the ground (ie your lowered honda civic might have a bigger signal than the 3/4 ton pickup with the off road lift kit. Vehicle speed will change the signal, as will alignment in the lane.
    • by torkus (1133985) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:57PM (#25042193)

      Just wait till they embed RFID tags in license plates. Seriously, it can't be THAT long till it happens.

      Hell, they can sell it as an easy replacement for EZPass...

      I ... still think the whole thing is a bad idea... who watches the watchers? Why, more corrupted oversight committees...which provide cushy jobs for those with zero interest in contributing to society, zero skill but a good connection to someone in charge.

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @11:57AM (#25041015)

    I cannot possibly foresee a way that this could be turned against the public in some horrific Orwellian fashion.

    • Re:I'm all for it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:04PM (#25041115) Homepage Journal

      "To gain public acceptance, the surveillance program is being initially sold as an aid for police looking to solve Amber Alert cases and locate stolen cars."

      Here in california we already have the Amber alert system tied into those highway warning signs and I see about 1 Amber alert every month or two. What percentage of cars on the streets are stolen? Not a whole hell of a lot either way, so we're going to rape everybody's privacy and invite abuse of sweeping power just for anomalies? It's not like this database will prevent a nuclear attack!

      Here's an obligatory horror story from TFA:

      In the past, police databases have been used to intimidate innocent motorists. An Edmonton, Canada police sergeant, for example, found himself outraged after he read columnist Kerry Diotte criticize his city's photo radar operation in the Edmonton Sun newspaper. The sergeant looked up Diotte's personal information, and, without the assistance of electronic scanners, ordered his subordinates to "be on the lookout" for Diotte's BMW. Eventually a team of officers followed Diotte to a local bar where they hoped to trap the journalist and accuse him of driving under the influence of alcohol. Diotte took a cab home and the officers' plan was exposed after tapes of radio traffic were leaked to the press. Police later cleared themselves of any serious wrong-doing following an extensive investigation.

      I'm going to build motorized, retractable cover for my front license plate if this system is implimented. Fuck that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Bryansix (761547)
        Actually a lot of stolen cars are on the streets at any given time. Car theft is a much larger problem then you think. 1.2 million cars are stolen each year... http://lojack.com/stolen-car-list.html [lojack.com]
      • Re:I'm all for it (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:22PM (#25041471)

        Here in california we already have the Amber alert system tied into those highway warning signs and I see about 1 Amber alert every month or two.

        Hell, amber alerts are just a bunch of fear-mongering bullshit. The number of children kidnapped each year who actually end up dead or 'permanently' missing is roughly 100 and has been for decades - the amber alert nonsense hasn't dented that statistic. All the others are either custody fights gone extra-legal or runaways, in each case the child is not in any immediate danger that would justify spamming the entire state.

        • Re:I'm all for it (Score:5, Insightful)

          by cgenman (325138) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:45PM (#25041937) Homepage

          California Child deaths by cause [childdeathreview.org].
          Cause Number of Deaths Mortality Rate
                  Natural 3,923
                            Perinatal Conditions 1,508
                            Congenital Anomalies 836
                            Neoplasms 322
                            Respiratory Disease 157
                            Circulatory Disease 146
                            Nervous System Disease 183
                            SIDS 153
                  Unintentional Injury 1,149
                            Motor Vehicle 746
                            Drowning 134
                            Fire/Burn 20
                            Poisoning 44
                            Suffocation/Strangulation 73
                            Firearm 25
                  Homicide 508
                            Firearm 395
                  Suicide 155
                            Firearm 54
                            Suffocation/Strangulation 75
                            Poisoning 8

          Comparatively: Number of Amber Alerts in California 2003 - 24. Role of Amber Alerts in recovering those children - Questionable [boston.com].

          In terms of children-saved-per-dollar, we could be doing a lot more for children by educating and enforcing laws about swimming pool fences, or cleaning the air in our major cities. Or, for that matter, getting drivers to pay attention to the road and stop running over the kids.

      • by halcyon1234 (834388) <halcyon1234@hotmail.com> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:26PM (#25041551) Journal

        I'm going to build motorized, retractable cover for my front license plate if this system is implimented. Fuck that.

        Jeeze, if you're going to buck the system, why not go all the way and fuck up the system? Don't just hide your plate. Make it work for you.

        Take a ride past your local police parking lot, and jot down two or three license plate numbers. Then use a good quality laser printer and make yourself some copies of those "plates". With luck they'll never notice they're effectively tracking themselves

        Or heck, just copy ANY plate(s). Randomly switch them around. The system will think cars are vanishing and reappearing all over the place. Or maybe you'll get even luckier, and it will snap a shot of two of the same plates at the same time, and cause a referential integrity error in the system, crashing it.

        The minute the implement random manual spot checks by humans to ensure the integrity of the data, slap a Goatse on your plate. You should burn out the employees pretty quickly with that one.

        Whatever you do, be creative. The more you can clog the system with crap, the lower their cost:profit^H^H^H public safety ratio goes down. Make it hit a critical point, and the system will be abandoned.

      • Re:I'm all for it (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mcsqueak (1043736) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:31PM (#25041643)

        Not a whole hell of a lot either way, so we're going to rape everybody's privacy and invite abuse of sweeping power just for anomalies?

        That has been the justification behind every major piece of "security theater" installed since 9/11. Some sort of random, one-off attack happens and you have this momentous knee-jerk reaction as entire industries are created or transformed in order top deal with this "new grave danger".

        Just look at all the hassle we have to go through at the airports because some British nutjob tried to blow up a home-made shoe bomb. Or all the 3 oz container rules because of some rumor that you could assemble a chemical bomb from component parts in an airliner's lavatory.

        I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but with all of the lobbying that goes on at the state and federal level, combined with what companies are able to get away with these days, it's not surprising our liberties are given away for new, lucrative profit creating endeavors.

      • Re:I'm all for it (Score:4, Insightful)

        by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:44PM (#25041913) Homepage Journal

        What percentage of cars on the streets are stolen? Not a whole hell of a lot either way

        More importantly, what percentage of stolen cars are recovered without this Orwellian nonsense? I've had two cars stolen, One back in 1975 when I left the keys on a coffee table at a friend's house and his teenaged daughter and her friends decided to run away, and took my keys, and the one I'm driving now (It's chronicled in the NSFW sm62704 journals somewhere; again, the keys were stolen).

        In both cases the cars were recovered in a matter of hours. If a professional steals your car it won't be recovered at all; it will be in a chop shop in a matter of minutes. Cameras won't help in that case, as the pros use the newer flatbed tow trucks and will simply cover the automobile.

        In an Amber Alert, what percentage of child kidnappings do the police know the make and model, let alone license plate number?

        There's a sig somewhere at slashdot that says "Orwell was an optimist".

      • I'm going to build motorized, retractable cover for my front license plate if this system is implimented. Fuck that.

        My Prius has a rear view mirror that dims depending on how much light it's receiving. There is a sensor on it. Put your finger over the sensor and it thinks it's night out and the mirror dims.

        Maybe we could make something like that to cover the plates? Some sort of electronic dimming glass. Or maybe a large blank LCD that you could toggle with a switch.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by scorp1us (235526)

        Why not just chip the kid, then you know where the kid is and can eliminate the expensive traffic system that will only be effective 1% of the time.

        I think chipping kids until 18 is a good idea. After that, leave the decision up to them to get it out.

        This way, they can't use the "zomgthingkofthechildren" excuse.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by StikyPad (445176)

          Hmm.. people modded you funny, but I've suggested the same thing to my S/O.. They have them in pets, why not in kids? Of course, we'd have to establish some sort of agency that went around collecting stray kids and checking them for chips before destroying them, but I find that an acceptable compromise.

    • Me too! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bearpaw (13080)

      I'm buying stock in bicycle manufacturers.

  • by FSWKU (551325) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @11:58AM (#25041025)
    Why does it come as absolutely no surprise that they will sell a way to track your movements with "think of the children"?
    • by zulater (635326) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:04PM (#25041131)
      Even for good ideas I'm against them when they try to play the "it's for the children" emotional card. If the idea isn't good enough to stand on it's own then it's not worth it period.
    • by kadehje (107385) <erick069@hotmail.com> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:37PM (#25041771) Homepage

      And why am I not surprised when the public buys the "think of the children" pitch hook, line and sinker; when previous measures passed on this logic have done little to anything to address the problems they've supposed to have fixed while at the same time introducing new issues?

      If only people would seriously think of the children when they consider legislation that would sacrifice liberties: what kind of society do you want to leave to you're children after you're gone? Already I hear parents reminiscing about a time when they could play pickup baseball or hang out by the lake until well after sunset without a care in the world. Even though the activities may be different (e.g. playing Madden 2008 instead of touch football on the street), why can't children today get to enjoy the broad freedom to play that their parents enjoyed? And more directly on this topic, a generation who grew up with a rite of passage of driving around with friends and boyfriends/girlfriends at 16 years (and younger in certain areas) is increasingly pushing to raise the driving age to 18. The hazards of our society haven't changed that dramatically in the past 40 years; on average in the U.S. violent crime rates are signifcantly lower than they were in the early 1970s, a time considered to be the "good old days" by many Baby Boomer parents. Child abduction and pedophila have existed for much longer than the past few decades, and I'm curious to see whether there's really been an increase in incidence of these problems or just an increase of coverage of them.

      While some measures like educating children about not getting into a car with strangers and our present Amber Alert system are good, imposing a surveillance society does little to improve actual safety from the ostensible hazards that prompt such measures and at the same time creates new hazards of abuse by government and corporations.

      It amazes me that so many a generation that grew up in a time where the defeat of Nazism and fascism were fresh in our collective minds (their parents experienced World War II firsthand) and our freedoms were cherished as our distinguishing feature from totalitarian Communism can turn its back on the values they were raised with and build an increasingly restrictive society for their children. The same holds true of our fiscal values; a generation raised on thrift is now building an unimaginable amount of public and private debt to leave to their heirs.

      While not every Baby Boomer is guilty of this type of convenient thinking, apparrently there are enough who do to cause these measures to take effect. When someone says to you "think of the children," you really should think of the next generation. If I ever have children, I'll accept a 1-in-1000 (probably even lower, though I'm too lazy to look it up) chance that they'll be abused by a teacher, priest or any other adult over a much higher chance of being abused by a know-it-all government any day of the week. And even if I don't have my own children, I'll have nieces and nephews and friends' kids to think about.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Reziac (43301) *

        I saw a graphic a while back that illustrated your very point: Two generations ago, gradeschool-age kids' average normal range was 7-8 miles from home. One generation ago, it was one mile. Now it's less than 300 yards.

        There was an article in the NYTimes a while back (can't find it offhand) about a mom who gave her 9 year old son $20 for subway money and let him work out how to get home for himself -- and how proud the kid was at learning how to manage the public transportation system without help. That's wh

  • public space (Score:3, Insightful)

    by roman_mir (125474) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @11:59AM (#25041029) Homepage Journal

    But it's all in public space, so there must be no expectations of privacy, right? RIGHT?

    • Re:public space (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hacker (14635) <hacker@gnu-designs.com> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:13PM (#25041259)

      It is public, until all of that data is aggregated in some unknown and unavailable-to-the-general-public database.

      Do you mind having someone email you a turn-by-turn itinerary for every single place you went, how fast you drove, where you stopped, how long you stopped, and so on... from your front door in the morning until you come home at night, in your email every day? Do you have any major problem with that?

      This isn't about "seeing" you in public, it's about TRACKING your movements in public. Run that through some beta software to track "suspicious" activity, or appear in more than one place that a "known terrorist" was seen (fast food joint and then the carwash? Now you're a "person of interest").

      The implications of this are so massive it is unbelievable.

      • Re:public space (Score:5, Interesting)

        by dgatwood (11270) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:24PM (#25041497) Journal

        Exactly. This is a horrifying privacy invasion, particularly given that it is trivial to create a similar system that doesn't have any of those flaws.

        A modest counterproposal: build a database of all stolen vehicles and all vehicles listed in an amber alert. Set up computer systems on each camera with the appropriate detection and set them to log vehicle plate information that is listed in the stolen vehicle/amber alert database permanently and to store all vehicle information in temporary storage that is overwritten when it is more than three hours old. Provide a programming interface that tells each device to check its temporary storage buffer for a single plate upon request and use this when a new amber alert or stolen car is added to the database.

        This does two things: it solves the problem of amber alerts and stolen vehicles as defined and goes one step farther by providing a reasonable buffer time during which if an amber alert is called or a car is stolen, prior records can be searched for the vehicle in question (and only the vehicle in question).

        Include strict laws that absolutely prohibit any extension of the temporary buffer period beyond 3 hours and prohibit any publication, distribution, or transmission of the data stored in the temporary buffer except for a list of detection events for a single plate as queried through the aforementioned interface. Include strict laws that provide criminal liability for knowingly adding a plate to the suspect vehicle database that does not belong to a stolen vehicle or a vehicle listed in an amber alert or other A.P.B.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by CharlieG (34950)

          Like the strict laws that say that your NICS record has to be deleted after 30 days, and the Mayor and Police chief of Phillidelphia refuse to delete, despite court orders because "it helps us solve crimes"

    • Inevitable (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wurp (51446)

      By 2018 or so everyone will be filming the vicinity of their car and/or home at all times anyway. (How better to provide evidence that an accident isn't your fault, or see who broke into your car, etc.) Once quality vidcams and computing power drop to almost $0, and cheap or free software makes it trivial to set up, why not?

      Once that data is processed and correlated, everyone, including people who don't have the system, will be tracked everywhere and the information will be available to anyone. Even if o

  • DHS' real agenda (Score:5, Insightful)

    by megamerican (1073936) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:00PM (#25041047)

    Now the agenda of the DHS should be clear for everyone. It isn't about catching terrorists, its about tracking every citizen. Most of their money goes to putting up cameras in cities across the US, big and small and putting up "fusion" centers which track everything.

    Call me crazy or whatever you want. It isn't hard to verify everything I said via google.

    • by scorp1us (235526) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:44PM (#25041919) Journal

      When you have an oppressive government, every citizen is a potential terrorist.

      I can only explain it as such: The government expects some massive revolt soon, and it needs to be able to target any organizing into a power structure. Being that roads will be used to get to targets, they need to identify the people they need to watch and see them coming.

      As for why, I have to say it is economic collapse. There is no way we can continue to bail out these banks, have "world police actions", and fund national health care. In true political fashion they will deny it to the last, then spin it. Then when we actually have to know the truth, the ruling party (the rich) will have already adjusted leaving the rest of us with no recourse but to get their heads on a stick... If there is any accountability at all.

      I cannot see any good times ahead for the US. The people I work with and I agree this is the beginning of the decline of the US to a living standard more on par with the rest of the world. But hey, at least we'll have universal health care and/or cheap oil.

  • "You knew this would happen, didn't you?"

  • Dude, (Score:5, Funny)

    by IceCreamGuy (904648) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:01PM (#25041073) Homepage
    Where's everybody's car?
  • by Kreigaffe (765218) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:03PM (#25041101)

    Don't expect to see this go anywhere, not for a long time at least.

    On this side of the pond.

    To my friends in the UK, I'm so terribly sorry. I'm assuming you will have this technology installed and in full swing by next Tuesday.

    • Re:This is America (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:22PM (#25041477)

      Those of us in the UK have been recorded in this way for quite some time now. The police have been happily rolling out nationwide ANPR tracking cameras and databases, and you've guessed it, they rolled it into a neat deal that has managed to avoid much Parliamentary scrutiny using technicalities. There has been a little consternation about that from a few liberal (small 'l') MPs and the Information Commissioner, but right now the good guys are a bit busy to put up serious opposition, what with trying to stop our entire way of life from collapsing because of the impending economic implosion and fighting even nastier surveillance/database measures like the National Identity Register and the National DNA Database.

  • How handy! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:04PM (#25041127) Homepage Journal
    TFA:

    Police later cleared themselves of any serious wrong-doing following an extensive investigation.

    I just love this quote so much, for so many reasons.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dr Caleb (121505)

      >Police later cleared themselves of any serious wrong-doing following an extensive investigation.

      > I just love this quote so much, for so many reasons.

      You should try living here. We Edmontonians hear that a lot on the news. "Police taser/shoot/run a red light and kill children " . . .and the internal investigation clears them of wrongdoing.

      An offduty cop ran a red light in his BMW 735 wile drunk, and nearly killed 3 people, burned one of them quite badly. He was suspenede - with pay. It's laughabl

  • by roman_mir (125474) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:07PM (#25041163) Homepage Journal

    ATS likewise is promoting motorist tracking technologies. In a recent proposal to operate 200 speed cameras for the Arizona state police, the company explained that its ticketing cameras could be integrated into a national vehicle tracking database. This would allow a police officer to simply enter a license plate number into a laptop computer and receive an email as soon as a speed camera anywhere in the state recognized that plate.

    - in a Freudian slip, I misread this:

    cameras for the Arizona state police,

    to be this:

    cameras for the Arizona police state,

    and I am serious, it took me reading the sentence 2 more times to understand that it was written the other way around. And after I read it correctly I thought that the authors must have made a mistake.

  • Hello shadowbox (Score:4, Informative)

    by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:08PM (#25041185) Journal

    At least here in Florida, the law states that one can not obscure one's license plate. But, if one recesses the license plate into the vehicle and uses proper lighting, then the cameras can not see the plate, but the police on the ground can, therefore the plate is not obscured.

    Also, in places like Florida where only a rear plate is used, getting a picture of both the plate and the driver will require the use of two cameras.

  • by bigtrike (904535) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:08PM (#25041195)

    If you don't want your rights violated, try riding a bicycle. By driving a motor vehicle, you are giving up many of your rights, most of which have been whittled away with arguments of protecting public safety. You also have the added benefit of doing less to fund terrorism through the purchase of gasoline.

  • WTF? Why are private companies doing public surveillance & traffic enforcement in the first place?

  • Frog (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If you want to boil a frog, you don't dump it into a pot of boiling water. You put it in cool water, and slowly bring it to a boil.

    Who here would want to be dumped into a pot of boiling water? I figure between those two evils, being burned and jumping out, or being boiled slowly, I say the later is the lesser evil. At least that way we don't feel the pain.

    This is just one step in the corrosion of our civil liberties. We're bound to have the worth eventually happen. So why not let it happen and be done with

  • It should be (Score:5, Informative)

    by Capt James McCarthy (860294) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:09PM (#25041205) Journal

    A huge red flag when commercial entities want to enforce laws. But that's what happens when the Governments start outsourcing.

    • Re:It should be (Score:5, Insightful)

      by roman_mir (125474) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:14PM (#25041285) Homepage Journal

      They don' really want to enforce laws.

      Commercial entities want to create a business opportunity selling and maintaining these systems with possibility of further extension of the technology to other aspects of life.

      The Government wants to keep track of its citizens, because the Government is scared of its citizens. The government also wants to justify taking more taxes from its citizens to buy these expensive technologies and to create new forms of government for regulation of such tech and the new laws that will come with it.

      Nobody cares about 'enforcing laws' and besides, if they wanted to enforce laws they should have started with enforcing of the Constitution first.

  • by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:10PM (#25041217) Homepage Journal

    When my wife and I were in another state, we were using her car, I was driving, and I got photographed running a red light. They sent a citation to my wife, complete with a copy of the photo clearly showing me driving. They demanded that she either pay or give the name and address of the person who was driving. My wife - who is a lawyer - told them that that her husband was driving, and then refused to give name or address. She informed them that is is a protected relationship, that is, you cannot be compelled to testify against your spouse. They gave up on it.

    So register your car under your wife's name, and hers under your name. Don't have a wife? Pay your attourney to register it for you. Attourney/client relationship is privleged also.

  • by Whatsisname (891214) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:11PM (#25041225) Homepage

    "You do not examine legislation in light of the benefits it will convey if properly administered, but in light of the wrongs it would do and the harms it would cause if improperly administered." -- Lyndon B. Johnson

    Seriously, how do these people live with themselves, knowing what they are doing.

  • by Sierran (155611) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:13PM (#25041251)

    Obviously not content [gizmodo.com] to rely on his reality distortion field, Steve Jobs now looks to be even more forward-thinking than his press would have you believe.

  • by RichMan (8097) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:15PM (#25041291)

    Your car was determined to be at point 1 at time alpha and point 2 at time beta. 1 and 2 or the same road with a speed limit.

    (D2-D1)/(beta-alpha) - speed_limit = excess_speed

    As the owner of the automobile this ticket has been sent to you under law HTA2009-01 and you are responsible for payment. A picture from point beta is attached for your reference should you not have been driving at the time you can contact the driver and make arrangements for them to reimburse them for your expense.

    Note of this excess speed has been forwarded to your insurance company. Should the automated face recognition software have matched the photo against your drivers license you will also have been assigned appropriate demerits.

    If an extreme hazard was detected in the amount of observed speed we trust that an officer has already contacted you about this issue.

  • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2014@virtual-estates.net> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:15PM (#25041305) Homepage

    This technology is equivalent to having hundreds of thousands (millions) of officers watching the public highways and recording the every license plate. Included are also the clerks collecting the notes and able to search through them in seconds.

    No society could afford this many policemen — the cameras and the computers are productivity tools, just as they are in the offices or at industrial facilities.

    The old adage is, police can solve any crime, but not every crime — for lack of resources.

    The real question is, do we want to increase the ratio of solved crimes (up to 100%) — as the technology may allow us to do? Or do we want to allow some transgressions unpunished to allow some "breathing room" for future fighters against some hypothetical tyranny?

  • by zappepcs (820751) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:17PM (#25041339) Journal

    First up - IR license plate lights causing cameras to see nothing but glare where your license plate should be.

    Next - New cameras at 400% the cost of the originals.

    Followed quickly behind holographic projection license plate covers.

    This can escalate for quite some time and only manufacturers and lawyers will make any money while not even 1/100th of one percent of criminals will be tracked with this system.

    Sometime after it is established, the network will be hacked and more will be spent to secure the network. Still no criminals caught yet.

    In larger cities, people will begin regularly using those rental cars things, where you all share vehicles, just grab one that is free at the moment. Fuel shortages will increase the use of alternatives to motor vehicles.

    Criminals will always be using a stolen plate on the car they stole from elsewhere anyway.

    The only people that can possibly be caught using this are stupid criminals and the innocent, where innocent is a variable of personal taste. A cheating husband is innocent in this case where it is used by his wife to catch him out.

    Most interestingly, we'll be able to publicly verify that police are abandoning their creed of protect and serve with respect.

    Well, they are possibilities...

  • IR camera jamming? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sierran (155611) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:18PM (#25041365)

    On a more serious note, I wonder if IR camera jammers [makezine.com] work on these cameras, and if use of them doesn't trip 'concealment' alerts since it doesn't prevent any person from seeing the plate. An LED array around the plate is certainly easier to remotely control and not as suspicious looking. Might be time to actually build one of those like I've been planning...

  • Easily fixed (Score:5, Informative)

    by mlwmohawk (801821) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:19PM (#25041411)

    The vidicon tube is long gone, all these cameras are solid sate which means they are sensitive to near infrared. Conveniently enough, the exact same type produced by LEDs.

    It should be possible to create a high brightness license plate frame which will overload the camera and just leave a very white rectangle where the plate should be in the photo.

    Still, private companies should not be in the business of enforcing laws or tracking citizens. Private companies do not answer to the public and are not regulated in the same way a police officer is.

  • by bjdevil66 (583941) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:27PM (#25041565)

    About 60-70% of AZ residents are welcoming the highway speed cameras with open arms - thanks to Governor Napolitano whoring the state out to Redflex to balance her budget. (The tickets taken by the cameras will not count against insurance points - it's only a fine. Once you pay your "tax", it's forgotten.

    If you speak out against the system, you're branded a speeder, GTA wannabe, and told to, "Just slow DOWN!", or, "Stop breaking the law!" They don't get that it's all about money (and now outright spying).

    Hell, even if the people rose up against the system and stopped this tracking, what's to stop the NSA from doing it under the table with the same system, all in the name of safety?

    I single-handedly hold Scottsdale, Arizona and its town council for bringing this system to the entire nation. If they'd had their heads pulled out and not put the system up on the Loop 101, it wouldn't have gained any traction to go state-wide, and now nationwide. Thanks, guys... I hope you enjoyed that paltry revenue stream while introducing Big Brother to us. Damn, I hate Scottsdale more than ever now...

    It looks like the tin foil crowd got this system 100% right, and the sad thing is that nobody will be educated enough about what's going on to care.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LionMage (318500)

      I second that. Scottsdale used to be bad about setting up speed traps at the foot of the Papgo Buttes, knowing full well that most drivers aren't conscious of the gravity boost their speed got until it was too late, or that they couldn't slow down fast enough, depending on where the trap was set up. I got nailed on McDowell Road at one of these traps, albeit by a human cop (who apparently felt the need to have a second squad car follow along to ... I don't know, intimidate me or something).

      Another couple

  • by bjdevil66 (583941) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:32PM (#25041661)

    ...is obviously not aware that the base of this tech is already being installed in AZ. They could probably have this system installed nationwide and running in a decade or two, especially if it means more money in their pockets.

    Is anybody seriously going to stand up to this? Or will we be like that couple in "Minority Report", where the spider robots came in their house, scanned their irises, and left, and the people didn't think a thing of it?

  • by bestinshow (985111) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:40PM (#25041825)

    This is all but inevitable. The only power there is will be that of limiting the invasion of privacy that a person reasonably has on their day to day business. Tracking someone in their car clearly is an invasion of privacy, even if they are in public, because that's not normal behaviour - you don't know where people have come from and where they are going when you see them in public, you see them in that instant doing a small portion of their daily movement.

    However the infrastructure could be used in a responsible manner if the tracking is only granted by a judge for specific cars.

    I can see where it would be useful for a stolen car - until the number plate is changed anyway. Thieves will get clever though, switching number plates early, putting the hot number plate on another car, etc. Of course these cameras could still track certain cars by model/colour if the camera network is dense enough..

    Average road speed cameras are already in the UK. I don't know if they only keep records of transgressing cars, or if they keep a record of every car that goes past. I bet they record aggregate information - average speeds of vehicles going through at different times of the day and so on. The problem of these cameras, and systems in general, is that they aren't reactive to road conditions at the time, and they also are put in places with artificial speed restrictions, or even obscured speed limit signs. Revenue collection is the primary aim.

  • by flogger (524072) <non@nonegiven> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:48PM (#25041985) Journal
    City information changed and posted anonymously for obvious reasons.

    Homeland Security: Homeland Security is a nice euphemism. It sounds like our homeland, our country, our homes will be safe and secure. This sounds great. But in practice what Homeland Security does is spy on law-abiding American citizens. Phones can and have been tapped; email can and has been intercepted, postal mail can and has been intercepted, people can and have been denied transportation. While the last example is not an example of spying, it is an infringement on freedoms. Personally, I adore America as being the âoeLand of the Free.â But in the name of security, freedoms are being negated. The government is now keeping tabs on citizens âoeto keep us safe.â Here is an example of the government watching us. "Bob" is a policeman in "Regulartown, USA". In his police car, he has a machine/computer/camera that scans the area for other cars, and this machine reads the license plates. The machine/computer/camera then checks its database to see if there are warrants, arrest notices, etc. for the owner of the vehicle. The machine/computer/camera also adds information to the database that the vehicle and its owner were at X location at Y time. In addition to the equipment on the police cars, every road coming into and leaving "Regulartown" contains a camera/computer that does the same thing. This camera/computer is tied into Homeland Security and keeps track of peoplesâ(TM) movements. We are really close to âoe1984â. We already have a Big Brother watching us. Soon, I fear, we may have Big Brother openly directing us.

    I understand the governmentâ(TM)s reasoning for granting Homeland Security its spying privileges. The government wants to keep us safe. However, this is America: The Land of the Free. This country is not âoeThe Land of the Safeâ. People naturally want freedom to do what they feel is right. These freedoms can be choices of which church to attend, what flight to take, who to vote for, when to travel, how late to stay out, when to speak out against government policies, etc. In Arthur Millerâ(TM)s play, The Crucible, a play I teach to my English III students, Miller addresses the issue of governments wanting to regulate people for âoesafetyâ and how this conflicts with people wanting to be âoefree.â In the authorâ(TM)s commentary, Miller outlines the government crackdown of communists in the 1950s. His play, The Crucible, is a great allegory of McCarthyism. Some believe that we are headed for a new form of McCarthyism today. It seems that today our government has a new enemy to use for taking away freedoms. In 1692 the enemy was witchcraft; in 1950 the enemy was communism; on September 11, 2001, the enemy became terrorism.
  • Except... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TemporalBeing (803363) <<bm_witness> <at> <yahoo.com>> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:48PM (#25041997) Homepage Journal
    ...in some States it is illegal to have cameras for ticketing purposes (e.g. Virginia, which outlawed them with the shut-down of their test programs).

    So...they might be able to use the general traffic cameras, but those would not likely be able to read enough detail to track anything, let alone the numerous cars visible on their picture at any given frame.

    And don't forget - the ticketing cameras (e.g. speed limit & red-light runner cameras) only have a 1/3 accuracy rate to start with. (For every 3 attempts to ticket, 2 were thrown out.)

    So I don't see how they are going to do very well...
  • by Khopesh (112447) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @01:00PM (#25042237) Homepage Journal

    The IR-emitting diodes (LEDs) used for Sunglasses that hide your face from cameras [schneier.com] (as blogged by Bruce Schneier in July) could easily be applied to your license plates for the same effect.

    The legality of such things is another question altogether; it could be a circumvention device for traffic/toll cameras, possibly falling into DMCA territory, but to my knowledge, only blue lights and blinking lights are at all regulated ... in fact, you're required to have your plates lit up - why not make it a light that is more intense to the infrared spectrum?.

  • by russotto (537200) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @01:06PM (#25042365) Journal

    If you're one of those "reasonable" people who, when discussing these sorts of cameras, pooh-poohed other people's claims that they'd be used for this purpose, calling them "paranoid" and accusing them of seeing black helicopters or some such, please accept this on behalf of all us paranoid types everywhere

    WE TOLD YOU SO, ASSHOLE!

    (And if you're interested, tinfoil hat fitting is down the hall and to the right. Remember, shiny side out)

  • by McFly69 (603543) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @01:19PM (#25042595) Homepage
    I just feel it in my bones this is just a really bad idea. My inital thought is that any car that has this as standard equipement, I will not buy it.....just plain and simple. If all car have this feature.... well features in car do break... if not they can always be removed.
  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @01:21PM (#25042621) Homepage Journal
    They are often in the private impound lots. Some areas (such as Minneapolis, MN) have essentially legalized auto theft, provided it is done by a for-profit impound lot.
  • by peter303 (12292) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @01:31PM (#25042773)
    The technology was originally developed for the post office where envelopes flash by cameras traveling many miles and hour. Some of the same engineering companies sell both systems.
  • Hey! Guess what! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by blair1q (305137) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @01:44PM (#25042921) Journal

    "They" aren't doing this, YOU are.

    You are the government. Go govern your civil servants.

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